A writing prompt for you

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 my website.

When is it best to release your next book?

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.

Introspective works 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.

January

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.

February

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.

March

Debut authors; mysteries; fiction

April

Women’s fiction

May

Beach reads; women’s fiction; biographies; books on mountain climbing (Good month for indies)

June

More beach reads; women’s fiction; biographies or nonfiction that will appeal to male readers on vacation or for Father’s Day

July

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.

August

Debut authors; education-related titles; narrative nonfiction by lesser-known writers… read indie authors. (Get in, before next month)

September

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.

October

More politics; cooking; big nonfiction titles by well-known personalities and writers; higher-end photography books; art books.

Not generally indie-friendly.

November

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)

December

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

http://authl.it/B07K5Z3F9K http://authl.it/B07B27SPBL

Dear Diary 2020… Round Two

You can blame ‘Dianna’ for this post.

You see, back on July the 16th, I wrote a post entitled ‘Dear Diary… 2020’.

Unlike many people, who believed this Covid thing was about over and soon we would all be dancing naked in the streets and shagg hugging random strangers, (at least I can print the word hugging), I did not believe any such thing.

You can read ‘Dear Diary 2020’ HERE and then come back when you are all caught up.

Okay, now your back I’ll carry on.

So, why do I say blame Dianna?

Because she added this comment to my original Dear Diary post, it reads,

“Please, please, please update this diary for us! Your humour here has us all chuckling and we all need that now.”

Except for this short comment, I have no idea who Dianna is, but I do know she has great taste in blogs, a marvellous sense of humour, and sounds like my kinda girl.

Thank you, Dianna.

So, I shall start this post, which I am calling it ‘Dear Diary 2020… Round two’, as that pretty much sums it up, and as this post starts off where we left the first, in July.


JULY

Let me take you back to July the 6th, something I neglected to say and something which was overlooked by just about everybody on the planet

This was the day CNN reported an outbreak of the bubonic plague in Mongolia.

Seriously. I kid you not. The world was focused on a strain of the flu, the warning the world could be overtaken by the Bubonic Plague, the same ‘Black Death’ that killed over 50 million people on its last visit seemed to pass us by.

I mean, what are a few boils and erupting pustules in comparison to a coronavirus sneeze?

So, nothing to worry about there then.

The UK announced it will suspend the extradition treaty with Hong Kong due to the controversial security law that was passed (or will be next month, August). Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab warned Beijing that the UK is watching and keeping track of the rights of Hong Kong citizens.

Okay, while this is a good thing, as many current Honk Kong Chinese were British citizens until 1997, I cannot see Beijing quaking an the knees knowing they are ‘being watched’ by the UK government… anyway, I don’t think the Chinese ministers have ever watched Cape Fear.

However, the most disturbing news was for Ireland, who may now have to reconsider their entire national identity.

It is now said Leprechauns originated in Italy rather than Ireland.

After a five-year study, researchers at Queen’s University Belfast and Cambridge University have concluded the word “leprechaun” originated in Ancient Rome. According to their findings, the Irish “leipreachan” comes from the Latin “lupercus”, the name of a Roman god in charge of protecting flocks and also his cheeky male followers.

Devastating!


AUGUST

A giant explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, On August 4, killed 135 people and injured another 5000. It was soon revealed the blast was caused by badly stored ammonium nitrate.

Why any peaceful country would want to hoard such a vast quantity of that chemical is… well… let’s just say, open to speculation.

The bit I loved… okay, that may sound harsh, but hay ho… is the warehouse in question was called ‘The Firecracker’ warehouse. (Once, allegedly, being a fireworks factory).

At least the building lived up to its name. No trading standards investigation needed on that count.

On August 9, protests in Belarus erupted after the election results came in.

Current President Alexander Lukashenko beat opposition candidate Sventia Tikhanovskya after receiving 80% of the votes.

Tikhanovskya refused to accept the election results, stating it was clear more people voted for him.

Hmmm… Sounds familiar…

cousins maybe?

A possible Russian link…

nah, never… can’t be…can it?

Oh… and this… it was reported that Kim Jong Un was in a coma, and the photos of him alive and well back in May were fake. The rumour also states his sister, Kim Yo Jong is geared up to be his successor.

Then Kim Jong Un appeared at a party meeting, warning North Korea about the dangers from the coronavirus pandemic and Typhoon Bavi.

North Korea has still not reported any coronavirus cases in the country and Kim Yo Jong is still geared up to be something… or not.

Now an incident of note; Workers at a service station between Horsham and Crawley, (UK,) have been threatened with toilet brush during what they described as a “slight misunderstanding” over social distancing in the bathrooms.

Police Inspector Darren Taylor said: “How the toilet brush became embroiled into the disturbance we really don’t know.”

Readers will be pleased to know he added, “The toilet brush has now been returned to its cubicle”.

I guess the lesson we take from this is, keep you space… unless you want a prickly object inserted into a place the sun don’t shine.


SEPTEMBER

Breaking world news on September 1 came from Canada, yes, you read that right, something actually happened in Canada.

It’s okay, I’ll wait until get a stiff drink and are sitting down…

It was reported a karaoke bar in Canada could face fines after at 30 coronavirus cases were linked to it. The bar announced they will close for a week and urge their patrons to get tested.

What… you want more, sorry, that’s it.

After all, we are talking about Canada here.

BHM… Black Hair matters, no really… On September 8, protests in South Africa erupted after a controversial TREsemme advertisement was shown on Television.

The controversial advertisement compared black hair to blond, calling the blond hair ‘normal’ while saying the black hair was ‘frizzy and dull.’

The company has apologized for the advertisement and suspended all employees involved in publishing it.

So, the little man, who was most probably following orders, gets it; while the corporate marches on regardless.

(Get me, sounding all political and socialist.)

Anyway, the SH-1-T hit the proverbial fan regarding Coronavirus, when it was reported the daily Covid cases in Europe reached a record high. Lebanon’s coronavirus cases skyrocketed. Spanish officials urged the city of Madrid to enforce stricter restrictions or face serious risks.

Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau announced that the country is already experiencing its second wave of the virus. Israel passed a law banning mass protests during lockdown. Australia was sued by a consumer rights groups for the COVID-19 outbreak that occurred at the Tyrol ski resort, Ischgl. It was reported Belgium is at risk of becoming overwhelmed by coronavirus cases.

The Czech Republic faced a whole country lockdown, as the area has the most number of cases on the entire continent. France and Germany are inflicting stricter coronavirus guidelines after a rise in cases. Portugal announced new restrictions, implementing a curfew.

Chinese officials began a controversial emergency vaccine program administering emergency vaccines to hundreds of thousands of people before the vaccine has gone through safe clinical trials.

I want to say something funny or controversial here, but, to be honest, I am lost for words.

Let’s finish the month with this…

A sex shop in the US is offering female customers free red, white, and blue vibrators if they pledge to vote in the (then) upcoming White House election.

The ‘Erotique adult store’ in Montana says it wants to, “Make America orgasm again”, and is giving away 2,200 vibrators in a promotion dubbed The Great American Orgasm.

The sex toys are accompanied by an American flag sticker that states: “I came and I voted.”

Sorry if I mention this too late for you to take advantage of their generosity. (Dianna?)


OCTOBER

British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson,  warned it could be a difficult winter for the nation (United Kingdom). Now, I am unsure if he is referring to the Covid situation, has advanced knowledge of the weather forecasts, or expects our estranged uncle, the one we never speak of, to come visiting?

I suppose much depends on if, when, and how restricted our lockdown measures are.

Who knows?

This is bad, an abortion ruling in Poland led to nationwide protests. The controversial ruling banned nearly all abortions except those in the case of rape, incest, or risk to the mother’s health.

While, in the US of America… (It could only happen in the States), a man in Illinois has kept a half-eaten sandwich the then-vice President, Richard Nixon, from September 1960. Steve Jenne, then a teenager, grabbed the sandwich when Nixon visited his hometown.

“I looked around and thought, if no one else was going to take it, I am going to take it’”, he said.

Jenne has since written a book about the sandwich and been interviewed about it on The Tonight Show.

What… a book and an appearance… now that takes the biscuit…

See what I did there… biscuit (cookie in American)… sandwich… food, eats, snacks… NO, oh forget it.


NOVEMBER

I’m not going to mention anything that’s happening right now, as I will leave scope for a third part of these Dear Diary posts. (If Dianna like this one too?)

Oh, except this one thing…

Scientists in Australia have discovered no signs of alien life after searching more than 10 million solar systems.

The research team used a gigantic telescope in the Western Australian outback to perform the vast search, which they dubbed ‘looking for ET‘.

“We found no technosignatures – no sign of intelligent life,” one of the scientists said.

So, while 2020 still has some surprises in store for us, Alien invasion does not seem to be one of them.

However, they have not ruled out a Zombie apocalypse 2020 https://amzn.to/3nogJMw, a Giant Asteroid collision , or Artificial Intelligence becoming self-aware… think Skynet/Terminator?

So, there is still time for 2020 to out with a bang… Literally… in a literal sense.

I’ll leave you with one more thing to mull over…

Australian scientists claim they have proven time travel is mathematically possible, by reconciling Albert Einstein’s famous theory of general relativity and the grandfather paradox.

Germain Tobar, who led the research at the University of Queensland, said a time traveller could theoretically go back in time to kill the first person infected by Covid-19 and thus prevent the pandemic.

OK… Hands up… Who want’s that job?

Amazon’s A9 algorithm, dispelling a myth and the future…

Amazon-A9

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.

amazon-search-algorithm

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.

Check out Electric Eclectic at https://electriceclecticsblog.wordpress.com/about/

 

2, Book Description

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.

kindle-description-field-textarea

3, Pricing

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.signature

Are you looking for a bespoke cover? Email Peejay Designs at PeeJaydesigns@mail.com

 

5, Customer Reviews

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.

Read more… https://wp.me/p5nj7r-1kR

 

51ap3vRNKyL._SY300_

6, Sales

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.

amList

 

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

google-panda-penguin

 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.

Read more… https://wp.me/p5nj7r-1fn

reflection

Publishing trends, predictions & forecasts for 2020

Those of you who follow Ramblings from a Writers Mind will know this time of year I put my ‘professional neck’ on the line by expressing my prognostications regarding the publishing industry for the coming year.

The first of these predictive posts was made way back in December 2017, when I forecast my assumptions for 2018. Looking back now, you will agree I pretty much nailed it. See for yourself,Insights & Publishing Trends for 2018′ 

Last year I published, on the 27th of December 2018, my review for this year, 2019. How accurate is this forecast? ‘Publishing Trends & Indie Author Insights for 2019′ 

images

This year, I am once again sticking my neck above the parapet by suggesting what will be happening through 2020, regarding the publishing industry worldwide, especially that which affects the Indie Author.

I have been asked why I post this forecast every year.

My answer is simple; if you have an idea of what is happening, going to happen or reasonably likely to happen, you can plan your writing, your genre, your book and cover design, marketing, promotions, and social media content to take full advantage of the markets predicted movements and organic flux.

In simple terms, you can be proactive rather than reactive and keep up, if not stay one step ahead, of the game.

I have not organised the following in any particular order, so scroll down and pick out the areas which interest you the most and then work through the other sections as there is, most definitely, information you really do want, (or need,) to be informed about in each section.

1 – Book Cover Design Trends

2 – Audio/Audiobooks

3 – AI (Artificial Intelligence)

4 – Emerging reach methods

5 – Social Media

6 – Telling Stories on social

7 – eBooks and the Indie effect.

8 – India

9 – Authorpreneurs

10 – POD/Inventory

11 – Author Alliances

12 – Crowded Social

13 – Fundamental Shifts

So, without further ado, this is my insight and predictive forecast into the indie book market and international publishing industry worldwide for the year AD 2020.

1 – Book Cover Design Trends

As a digital artist and book cover designer, this is one area I personally enjoy keeping a close eye on.

There are many elements to good design and bringing them all together in a limited space while incorporating all the necessary text elements is an often-underrated skill.

With the lists of newly released and soon to be released books now in the public domain, it is easy to see the prevailing design trends. Many of which, I suggest Indie Authors should take heed of.

  • The first is those where the designers create Technicolor covers, washes of psychedelic textured rainbow patterns, which appear to be moving across the cover or jacket. It is their dimensionality that tricks the eye.
  • Continuing from 2019 is text and images which overlap images and text, and become interwoven with them, lending an almost 3D effect to the cover.
  • Minimalist covers, such as monochrome with basic lettering, will carry over into 2020. The simplicity of such covers, usually using a bold background image, works well against shelves full of multicolour and bright renditions.
  • Handwritten style fonts, occasionally used with ‘crossing out’ of bolder texts, do not seem to be going away but are becoming more inventive and eye-catching.
  • Staying with text. A resurgence, in a modern form, will be shuddering, shading, glows, bevels and reflections. Big bold typographic statements that ‘jump-right-out’ at you.

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2 – Audio/Audiobooks

The audiobook market has grown in double figures for six straight years with a 37.1% growth in the USA in 2018. (latest figures)

The original audiobook provided a way of reading for those with visual problems and the elderly. The CD market for audiobooks formed 54% of sales in 2010 with digital downloads at 42%.

This has changed in recent years, partly because older people tend to be more tech-savvy and partly because the audience is becoming younger. The average listening age has moved from over 50 in 2010 to under 50 now.

As technology advances, so does demand. Smartphones, tablets and more recently, the growth in artificial intelligence have all contributed to the rise and fall of different markets with physical products taking a hit.

2020 will continue to bring a more diverse listener as marketing targets people of all ages from all walks of life.

The rise of the podcast has, in part, been responsible for the popularity and growth of audiobooks and will continue to bring in new listeners (across all ages) as its popularity transfers across to audiobooks.

People utilise the ability to listen to books while doing other things like gardening, travelling, jogging, knitting. Despite advances in screen technology people still drop devices in the bath or struggle with the sun when on holiday, not to mention the need to hold the device while sunbathing. Audiobook offers a solution to these problems with obvious benefits.

The Big Five publishers have only recently recognised that the audiobook market is the only sector demonstrating year on year growth, but boy are they noticing now. They have huge marketing budgets which will have a big impact on future audiobook trends. There is already and will be more aggressive marketing by the big players who will want to dominate and take their share of the pot. Targeting has only just begun to attract under 45s who use smartphones and AI more than older generations.

Indie authors have to some extent been reluctant to get involved because of the price of production is prohibitive. Having said that, many have entered via the royalty share option offered by producers such as ACX. Early adopters found more success with non-fiction books and these are hugely popular with figures for the final quarter of 2018 making up 25-50% of sales in some non-fiction genres.

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3 – AI (Artificial Intelligence)

Firstly, I am touching on a subject which is pertinent, but one which I expect will see smaller businesses and Indie Authors woefully trailing behind. It is one, however, which opens new opportunities or expands on the offerings of those already in the market.

This is the new wave of IT, or AI, as this in the next organic technological expansion. This evolution of IT will allow the integration of content, engagement and auto-tagging to scale and create process efficiencies.

While basic SEO will continue for the foreseeable, AI leveraged contributions will be at the forefront of the shift to mobile-first index and aid continued spotlighting of both local and personalised search results.

Publishers will start to create platforms to collect and visualise audience and community data as the focus on segmentation grows even more. This will lead to building branded lean sites featuring authentic storytelling and content native to the digital platform.

While content remains king, site architecture will focus on redistributing the information in forms which ensures easy to find and easy to access content for customers.

None of the above,  which may be some time before becoming widespread and accepted, should detract from already accepted processes.

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4 – Emerging reach methods

It is important for Indie Authors and small press publishers to monetize traffic whenever possible.

This should not simply be considered a ‘secondary’ income stream but needs to be considered as part of the mainstream income.

Podcasting and 4K video are two areas Indies can consider. Both need a savvy website design and high-speed Internet.

Note: As mobile use continually grows users expect all content to load just as quickly and easily on their phone as on their computer. Since websites play such a vital role, trends surrounding them range from AMP to PWAs to Schema markup.

Okay, let’s get to some facts.

  • You will need to leverage podcasting with publishing. In 2018, podcast listeners in the US grew from 40 per cent to 44 per cent of the total population.
  • The top revenue stream for worldwide news publisher became digital publishing subscriptions with 44 per cent of the world population reading online.
  • Printing is not going anywhere. Most businesses, 64 per cent, told the Quocirca’s Global Print 2025 study printing will remain important well into 2025.
  • While the global book publishing industry is worth about $103 billion, it has continued to experience 0 per cent annual growth five years running.
  • Self-publishing continues to provide an “in” for those who want to publish, but self-published e-books provide better response for the author. On Kindle, 17 of the 100 top-selling books are self-published.
  • Publishers report their highest priority in 2020 is audience growth and marketing with 34. 2 per cent placing it at the top. Second priority comes successful SEO, say 25.8 per cent.
  • Publishers have deserted traditional media as a source for information and instead, 64.2 per cent say they read blogs with second place going to forums with 11.7 per cent of publishers reporting it as their source for industry news.
  • Publishers say their biggest challenges of 2020 include creating unique content that readers want, 23.3 per cent, keeping up with Google algorithm changes, 22.5 per cent, and diversifying website revenue, 20.8 per cent.

Okay. that’s the ‘techy’ stuff and what the larger publishers think. So, what can the Indie do, what are the trends to follow, or even lead on, regarding Social Media?soc

5 – Social Media

Habits change, platforms evolve, and new platforms come into existence. All this influences how people use and react to social media marketing, as well as how marketers can reach their audience.

What you did last year, or the year before, probably will not give the same results now. Like giving away your books for free… that is a big NO-NO for 2020.

There are now 3.484 billion social media users across the globe, which is a 9% increase compared to last year. This equates to 45% of the world’s population being on social. It also means social media adoption has beaten previous estimates, which estimated 2.82 billion would be using social media in 2019.

Saying that, more people are choosing to “detox” from social media, deleting apps and profiles to step away. This is more than the usual changes seen, in terms of people choosing to use one platform less in favour of another, such as Facebook seeing users decline but Instagram attracting more, this trend is seeing people take a temporary or permanent break from all social media.

One in three adults in the UK are reducing their social media use. Some 6% of users have removed an app from their phone, 6% have permanently deleted their accounts and 8% have deleted their accounts and removed social media mobile apps. A big reason for this is people feel overloaded by social media, with the permeation of social media affecting mental health and wellbeing. Others choose to detox because they don’t trust social media platforms, either due to issues like Fake News or because of privacy and data concerns.

This is not to say social media will become void in terms of digital marketing, but marketers do need to understand the impacts.  It’s also vital you ensure your social media presence is as meaningful as possible. Your brand needs to offer more than memes, you need to deliver content which is positive and memorable. Content that makes an impact on your audience and provides as much value as possible.

While sharing posts you believe your target audience will enjoy is part of maintaining your social media presence, but you also need to encourage and cultivate interactions which are more than a simple like or share. Many brands/other authors have large numbers of social media ‘followers’ yet, their engagement levels are almost non-existent. Don’t be them. Be a brand who attracts engagement from their followers by building communities around your content.

Encourage your(self)/team to create their own social presence to promote content and increase overall brand trust. This tactic leads to an authentic voice for your organisation/brand.

Twitter chats help create a strong sense of community through content, bringing thought from all areas together in a real-time conversation. It gives your brand the perfect opportunity to engage directly with current and potential customers/readers.

Building social media communities help with word-of-mouth marketing, which is another big social media marketing trend for 2020. Communities allow engagement with nano and micro-influencers. many who will already be advocating your brand. Give them more reasons to share honest views and experiences of your products/books/author services.

Note: I mention Nano & Micro-influencers above. These are the people you need to create ongoing relationships with, not the ‘big influencers’ ones often associates with that term.

‘Big influencers’ are no longer trusted by consumers as their activity is clearly biased and devised for commercial reward. They no longer have the impact they once did and are seen as disingenuous.

In comparison, smaller influencers, ones who are likely to be part of your communities, tend to have better relationships with their followers, benefiting from a higher level of trust. This can lead to more engagement, thus increasing levels of trust in a brand/author/books which is more likely to culminate in conversion.

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The rise of alternative platforms

Whilst Facebook, Twitter and Instagram tend to be the core platforms, many users are growing fatigued with their continuous ‘moving of the goalposts’ in order to generate even high levels of their already extreme profits, seemingly at the expense, or disadvantage of their users.

This has led to brands, including the individual entrepreneur/author having to fight harder than ever before to achieve good levels of organic reach and engagement. While Twitter has seen some growth during 2019, its active user numbers are far from its all-time 2017 high.

Similarly, Facebook has seen a huge drop in users, especially younger users, over the last two years, with the younger audiences opting to spend time on other platforms. Combine the above with the increasing pay-to-play format of social media channels means brands are not seeing the result from the core platforms.

Be prepared for more changes through 2020 as these core platforms jostle for users and introduce alternative and optional platforms and media channels.

  • TikTok, with a younger target audience (41% of TikTok users are aged between 16 and 24) could be a great platform to encourage engagement with users who are stepping away from more traditional social media platforms. TikTok is the destination for short-form mobile videos.
  • Although Pinterest is far from new on the scene, it has experienced a recent resurgence. Pinterest has found it fits well into the e-commerce space and has an audience who are engaged with the idea of buying products they see on the platform. 75% of Pinterest users say they are “very interested” in new products compared to just 55% of people on other social media platforms. Brands report success on this platform, reporting 2x higher returns on ad spend from the platform than other forms of social media and a 1.3x higher return than traditional search.
  • Consider Virily is a relatively new Blogging Platform which opened its doors in May of 2017. Its offices are located in Estonia and Macedonia.

Virily practices revenue sharing, which for the small publisher and Indie Author, means the content you post and the interactions you make on the site earn you a share of the platform’s income.

So, by simply posting your engaging content via Virily, sharing that to your other social sites, from which your posts will be viewed, you will earn some revenue. Don’t hold your breath though, you will not earn a fortune, but if you are constantly posting engaging content, which you should be, then why not do it via Virily and earn a few cents per post?

The one downside is, you cannot post long/large blogs (like this one). But you could break it down into three or four shorter articles.

Utilizing alternative platforms allows you to engage with an audience who may not be on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, as well as providing you with different ways to share your content.

This could help deliver better results and shape your future social media marketing strategy.

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6 – Telling Stories on social

I have given this short section space of its own. Although it is still focused on social media, it is also at the core of what we authors do… tell stories.

Allow me to elucidate.

A long time ago I offered my services, on a commercial basis, to companies seeking ‘alternative’ marketing options. By a long time ago I mean the early two-thousands, so around twenty or more years ago.

This involved something I termed, CBNM, or ‘Creative Brand Narrative Marketing’. Not to be confused with ‘Narrative Marketing’.

I promoted the idea thus:

Unlike regular or standard brand narrative, CBNM uses flash fiction, short stories, essays and other narrative mediums to embed brand awareness and responsiveness into the consciousness of the consumer as a cultural and social standard, making it familiar and customary, thus creating longevity of brand loyalty.

CBNM is well suited to the internet; particularly Social Media Platforms, Web Communities, Forums and Blogging chains. Yet can be designed in such a manner that also allows inclusion in traditional and established marketing mediums.

CBNM is pro-active, flexible and adaptive. It can change and adjust your communications to express any modification or revision as and when required.

While I was more focused on the written word at the time than the current fashion for image-led ‘stories’, I see no reason the two cannot be combined and, with the option of linking the message to various other platforms, like Instagram, Amazon or ones own website. I see sharing ‘stories’ is a growth area for engagement.

I was way ahead of the game and now the rest of the world has caught up, as CBNM still holds true today, in fact, even more so. CBNM is all about engaging with one’s audience, about creating great content, about engagement and about eliciting response… the current mantra of all marketing gurus and one of the ‘must do’s’ of 2020.

Since the launch of Snapchat, other social media platforms have rushed to add the Stories format to their offering. The result has been huge growth in the usage of this format for Instagram in particular, which as of January 2019, boasts 500 million daily active Stories users across the globe.

On average, brands are posting Stories on around seven days a month, averaging out to one Story every four days.

Instagram.

  • Instagram Stories are more authentic than traditional Instagram posts that allow for heavy editing and altering.
  • Content is only available for 24hrs, therefore, it is current and will not become outdated.
  • Consumers want live updates and real-time content. Instagram Stories are normally the most up-to-date content a business can offer a consumer.
  • Through Instagram Stories, you can share other people’s Instagram posts. This function allows people to connect easily with other accounts and businesses.

Stories are not a suitable option for every brand, but as stories are engaging and seeing increased use, will lead consumers to expect brands to create Stories, it is worth assessing if and how you can utilize them.

An ongoing question I am asked is, “What’s the future of reading regarding eBooks and Print.”

Since the creation of eBooks, reading on the go has become so much easier… or has it?

Whether you daily commute or travel by plane, seeing people with e-reader devices in their sticky paws, rather than a traditional paperback book is not an uncommon sight. The prime difference is most devices avail the user to such a range of activities, it is so simple to flick, slide or click onto the next thing that comes into the user’s mind. From bidding on that must-have from eBay to browsing Amazon, to looking at pictures on Instagram before opening an eBook and reading another chapter, all can be done almost instantaneously.

Oh, for any doubters out there, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Reading a book is alive and well.

A recent Survey Monkey report revealed people have read eleven or more in the last twelve months. Uncategorised fiction came in first at 26%, with mysteries and thrillers coming in at a close second (22%).

What is interesting is the majority preferred to go with a print book when reading, with around 58% saying they purchased books in both formats. It seems people like the e-readers because they can store more, but overall, most people prefer to read a traditional printed tome whenever they can (70%).

Even with so many people liking the smell and feel of a paper book, curling up on a rainy afternoon with a mug of tea and a thriller may become a thing of the past, feared 45% of respondents.

What has not changed is peoples’ love of reading, no matter what shape, size or format the stories come in.

However, the above are just a few results from a relatively small market sample which was mostly based on people opinion rather than die-hard facts.

The following is a look at the state of the book market and takes its lead from industry published facts.

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7 – eBooks and the Indie effect.

Two new sets of numbers covering 2017 (latest available figures)show ebook sales are on the decline, both in terms of unit and dollar sales.

NPD’s PubTrack Digital, saw the unit sales of ebooks fall 10 per cent in 2017 compared to 2016. In absolute numbers, that meant the roughly 450 publishers represented saw ebook sales drop from 180 million units to 162 million over a year’s time.

The second, The American Association of Publishers, reported a decline in overall revenue for ebooks, a year-to-year decrease of 4.7 per cent in 2017. AAP tracks sales data from more than 1,200 publishers.

This ebook decline occurred in an overall publisher revenue environment that AAP said was essentially flat in 2017. So, some other kinds of book formats that AAP watches, like hardback books, went up as ebooks went down. For its part, NPD says when combining print and ebook unit sales, ebooks’ percentage of the total dropped from 21 per cent in 2016 to 19 per cent in 2017.

Children’s ebooks had the most dramatic decline in unit sales, and children’s/young adult ebooks have suffered double-digital revenue drops ever since the year 2015. Whilst adult fiction remains the most popular ebook category, with 44 per cent of all adult fiction sales in digital form.

However, neither NPD and AAP measure indie sales.

This is simply because centralized reporting of direct-from-author sales is tougher to come by, but by all anecdotal measures the independent market has taken off, notably in the also-still-large category of adult fiction.

One serious source of numbers for online book sales, including for indie ebooks, was the website Author Earnings. (Recently defunct) It estimated that traditional publisher reporting is, “now missing two-thirds of U.S. consumer ebook purchases, and nearly half of all ebook dollars those consumers spend.”

They say; “Ninety per cent of all romance purchases are ebooks,” the site’s latest report for Q2-Q4 2017 stated. “And we can see that science fiction and fantasy, with roughly 75 per cent of sales now ebooks and audio, is not that far behind.”

For all categories of ebooks, Author Earnings figures purely “indie” publishing accounted for at least 38 per cent of ebook units and 22 per cent of ebook dollars in the last nine months of 2017. And that doesn’t include micro presses, Amazon’s imprints.

“The indie share of the entire U.S. ebook market … now looks like what the indie share of Amazon alone used to be,” Author Earnings concluded. “In other words, far from losing ground, the overall indie market share has grown.”

So, you may be wondering: Are people buying more ebooks or more print books, overall? It’s hard to tell, across all kinds of books. Author Earnings doesn’t track physical bookstore sales, and NPD and AAP only track traditional publisher sales.

Jeff Bezos, whose Amazon distributes a lot of independently published ebooks, made it a point to note in his annual letter to shareholders that, “Over a thousand independent authors surpassed $100,000 in royalties in 2017 through Kindle Direct Publishing.”

Part of the apparently increasing shift of authors to indie status may be about the money.

 “In traditional publishing, the writer sees a sliver of the profits — 5-15 per cent,” SFWA President Cat Rambo, herself a hybrid author, told me. “In small press publishing, that number goes up significantly, and indie writers get to keep the biggest portion of the pie.”

The future of ebook publishing may increasingly belong to the independent author, especially as traditional publishers shift more marketing weight onto the writers while charging a premium for their traditionally published product.

2020 will see the market share of Indie Authors and Publishers increase again. More traditional published authors will move, at least part of their catalogue, or new book publishing, to the Indie market and in doing so will bring subsequent changes to the way the Indie market operates.

Mainstream publishing houses will also continue to encroach into the indie field as Penguin has with their Independent Publishing arm… which I find a contradiction in terms… but there we are.

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8 – India

India’s book market, currently worth Rs 261 billion making it the sixth-largest in the world and the second-largest of the English language ones, is expected to touch Rs 739 billion by 2020.

General and literary fiction is ranked the number one genre in the books segment while “test prep” was the most sought-after genre in Academic books.

The consumer data survey, (Nielsen India Book Market Report) shows, on average people read books 2.1 times a week while nearly two-thirds read the book occasionally; interestingly, 56 per cent of the respondents bought at least one e-book a year and nearly half of these bought at least 3-4 e-books a year indicating a growing demand for digital books.

Fifty-five per cent of trade sales are of books in English. Books in Hindi account for 35 per cent of Indian language sales.

While the market is highly fragmented, it is also experiencing consolidation, partly due to presence of the merged Penguin/Random House/HarperCollins’ acquisition of Harlequin (all companies with substantial presences in India), but also in educational, with S Chand’s acquisition of Madhuban, Vikas Publishing House and Saraswati Book House, and with Laxmi Publications’ acquisition of Macmillan Higher Education.

Vikrant Mathur, director of Nielsen Book India, adds,

“There is enormous potential in the Indian book market which has been highlighted by the report, enabling publishers, booksellers and libraries to gain a deeper understanding of the market, pin-pointing areas that can be developed and those pinch points that need to be addressed in order to bring more efficiency and cost savings to the Indian book market and its supply chain.”

Those authors who are part of Electric Eclectic will know this marketplace is already being explored by Electric Eclectic. For those authors who are not part of Electric Eclectic… then maybe now is a good time to join us.

I cannot write this forecast without mentioning Amazon… so, here is a brief mention…

Amazon has reported strong growth metrics across business segments in recent years. Much of the company’s top-line growth has been on an organic basis, with the only major exception being the $13.7 billion addition of Whole Foods and resulting physical stores to Amazon’s offerings. (latest available figures.)

Expect Amazon’s combined global online sales to increase from $130 billion in 2018 to over $180 billion by 2020.

The company’s net revenues to increase from $178 billion in 2017 to $235 billion and increase to over $340 billion by the end of the decade.

Accordingly, the online sales business is expected to contribute around 44% of Amazon’s overall revenue growth in the same period.

No one predicted, 10 years ago,  Amazon would emerge as the world’s largest cloud provider, or it would be opening physical bookstores, or offering innovative ways for customers to shop without cashiers (Amazon Go stores). I say Amazon will be pursuing a growth opportunity a decade from now that no one is talking about currently.

I cannot say what Amazon will look like in 2029… but…

Although Amazon is already enormous in size given its nearly $233 billion in annual revenue, there are still many places around the world where Amazon hasn’t penetrated. International revenue makes up about 28% of the company’s total revenue, and the largest market outside of North America is Germany.

Amazon will need to overcome obstacles as it expands internationally.

In China, where Amazon has less than a 1% share of e-commerce sales, Alibaba has a stranglehold on the market.

In India, where Amazon has been investing heavily, it has run into an obstacle in the form of new government e-commerce and anti-monopoly policies that force foreign competitors to compete more on quality of service instead of price.

But Amazon is just getting its feet wet.

In 2019, Amazon started to expand in Brazil and just opened its first e-commerce store in Turkey.

Amazon has generally run its international operations at a loss, but that’s indicative of Amazon’s moat. It requires billions of dollars to build the infrastructure in these countries, not to mention navigate around complicated laws and regulatory environments. There are not many companies in the world, except maybe Walmart, that have the capital and patience to lose money for several years while building the necessary scale to earn a profit.

While Amazon doesn’t disclose advertising revenue specifically, its “other” revenue category, which primarily includes ad revenue, increased 117% to $10.1 billion in 2018. Amazon’s ad business is growing at a faster clip than Facebook’s and Alphabet’s. It’s estimated that by 2020, Amazon’s ad business will reach $15 billion, which eMarketer expects to come at the expense of Google’s digital ad share.

While Amazon’s core retail business will continue to grow around the world, investors should keep their eye on Amazon’s cloud business Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS helps companies connect and scale a host of services and systems in the cloud, including machine learning, blockchain, storage, database system hosting, analytics, and business applications, among several other services.

Revenue from AWS has more than doubled to $25.7 billion over the last few years. It was estimated that Amazon had a 52% share of the public cloud service market in 2017, according to research firm Gartner.

What’s more, AWS contributed nearly 59% of Amazon’s total operating profit last year. One analyst with MKM Partners thinks that AWS alone could be worth $1 trillion by 2024, which is more than Amazon’s current market value of $871 billion (total shares outstanding times the share price).

Over the next decade, you can expect Amazon to continue to push forward internationally and penetrate the crevices of commerce and help migrate more people over to a digital economy. There’s still a lot of opportunities domestically, as well, given that e-commerce sales still represent less than 10% of U.S. retail sales.

International, advertising, and AWS are some of the big things that will drive growth going forward, but CEO Jeff Bezos is never short of ideas of where to steer the company. With Amazon currently pursuing opportunities in non-retail industries, such as the $135 billion video game industry and the $3 trillion healthcare industry, the company will likely look very different a decade from now. But that is what makes Amazon one of the most dynamic companies in the world, and why it’s a great growth stock to tuck away in your nest egg.

That’s it on Amazon. (I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.)

I don’t really need to say much else, except to ask where would we, as Indie Authors, would be without it? You may consider Amazon to be a Marmite company, love or hate. For me, the benefits of association far outweigh the alternatives… so, I’m in the love camp.

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9 – Authorpreneurs

I expect to see more self-publishing authors taking the role of “authorpreneur.” Publishing a book is a business venture, one with you, the author, as the brand.

Many successful and experienced authors now build their brand and establish their credibility in a given field. It is not enough to simply write a book; authors must market themselves, become involved in their own promotions and advertising.

This opens opportunities to help, aid and coach other authors, and to create other revenue streams. This can be in editing, proofreading, promotions, marketing, design, virtual assistants, virtual customer services, the supply of hand-crafted merchandise, online stores and more.

Some author organisations, such as Electric Eclectic, allow their authors to use established branding and to work with other EE authors.

2020, I am sure will see many Indie authors utilising their skillsets in this way.

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10 – POD/Inventory

Print on demand remains an important option for indie authors, one of the key factors which allow the independents to compete with their larger and better-funded competitors.

While eBooks are still in (slight) decline, print books show no such signs and allow the Indie Author the freedom of not having to hold a large inventory. An issue even large companies must contend with… even Amazon.

To deal with congestion at its warehouses, Amazon has cut book orders to publishers over the last several weeks. (reported by Publishers Weekly, Nov 19

The head of a publishing company said,

“if Amazon orders don’t rise to what has been typical ordering patterns in past years within two weeks we could lose the entire holiday season.” He added, “that if problems with Amazon persist and orders continue to be low, it is possible some online book sales could move to BN.com and other retailers such as Walmart, which has invested heavily in its online operations.”

It is this freedom from having to batch print and hold physical stock (of any quantity) which allows the Indie Authors to compete.

I don’t think 2020 will see any major movement from the likes of Barnes and Nobel or Walmart with regards to carrying indie-published books directly, but I am certain these companies are looking into the possibilities of creating their own POD systems.

If they do, it will open up a whole new world of possibilities for the Indie Author… stay tuned, folks.

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11 – Author Alliances

This is not new in concept, but these cooperative associations are morphing into successful unions.

In 2020 I expect many more Indie Authors to pull together to advocate for themselves. For example, authors are challenging the control ACX, a marketplace owned by Audible still wields over the audiobook industry.

For uploading an audiobook, and perhaps a simple quality check, they ask for a percentage of sales twice the size the author receives. Authors are starting to question this and, now, more equitable alternatives are starting to appear.

An important shift now is that predatory and fraudulent companies are being exposed, as authors come together to protect their best interests.

ALLi, the Alliance of Independent Authors, is helping authors sort the legitimate actors from those that have been subject to repeated customer complaints and legal action. Their ranking offers a one-stop resource for authors to determine if a publishing service comes vetted and recommended, with a Watchdog Advisory, or somewhere in between.

Another form of author alliance is common branding.

For example, Electric Eclecticallows its members, Indie Authors and small press publishers, to use the Electric Eclectic branding and share in the brand and individual author marketing initiatives.

My own expectation is, it will be harder to survive without forming an alliance, partnership or collaborating with others.

Take note from some of the big brands who partnered up to expand their reach and increase sales. For example, Starbucks and Spotify, giants in the coffee and music streaming business. They integrated the Spotify mobile app with the Starbucks My Rewards program and app. When customers were in the store, they could use either app to find out what music is playing in the store and add it to their saved music in Spotify.

The payoff for Starbucks was that the collaboration drove customers to download the app and join their customer loyalty program. As for Spotify, users who subscribe to their paid memberships get extra points for Starbucks My Rewards program. The partnership is mutually beneficial, and both companies have the potential to reach the other’s audience without sacrificing their brand.

And that is the key, Mutually beneficial’. Time to get you Mutually Beneficial coalition(s) up and running.

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12 – Crowded Social

Indie Authors must contend with far more than the competition of other books. You must also compete for space and attention which a million and one other products and services are fighting for.

This is most obvious of these are other forms of entertainment.

Almost every day some newform or platform for entertainment is announced. The sources proliferate online, authors compete with not only radio and TV, but the new streaming services beyond just Netflix, including Disney+, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, along with sports, live theatre, podcasts, video games, and more.

It can be difficult to stand out, to be seen when you are alone. To stay relevant, Indie Authors need to brand themselves and, as above, share branding, at least for some of their works.

One area where indies can have an upper hand is on a local basis, one’s hometown and county. This year 2020, make it a prime task to link up with your local media, radio stations, newspapers and television. Find out who runs Podcasts and blogs with local content in your area.

Once you have some airtime under your belt or even scheduled, you will find organising book signings far easier as your target destinations will be more receptive.

If you get on extremely well, why not have your local radio broadcast their show from the premises you are holding your signing. You make the radio happy, the bookstore happy and get a ton and a half of great exposure in your local community… hey, celebrity status at last!

Basically, as with all marketing. Think ‘outside the box’. (At least a little)

 

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13 – Fundamental Shifts

Of course, fundamental shifts in publishing will continue and not all of them will be predictable. (Except maybe by me? Lol) Authors do need to stay informed, this year 2019, we saw Sci-Fi, Cosy Mysteries, Women’s fiction and Historical fiction all come to the forefront of ‘trending’. I expect this to continue, at least for the first quarter of 2020.

Over the past years, we have seen Amazon grow from a minor player to the largest book distributor. Borders and the subsequent focus on B&N and Waterstones. Direct to consumer marketing, the vexing issue of ‘Discoverability’ and powerful trends like Open Access. Increasing globalised markets, innovations of workflow, and so much more.

But above them, all were the sea changes in how books of any kind were bought and sold, whether print or ebook and what this meant for the process and structure of publishing.

I think, starting now, we will see the effects of consolidation. Maybe. Eventually, an emergence of supergiant companies, such as the joining of forces of such giants as Pearson, Bertelsman, RELX and Lagardere… all as one? Maybe.

It is not so farfetched. Penguin (&) Random House, now incorporates Harper Collins. Nature and Springer are now one company. Each is a behemoth in comparison to what was considered ‘big’ just 20 years ago.

So, what does this hold for the Indie, the single hard-working writers such as you and me?

Thankfully, I see the road ahead as favourable.

While scale and centralisation may well be the future for the giants, the smaller ‘Davids’ of the world can look forward to continued diversity. Which is a good thing.

The growth of writing platforms, like Wattpad, YouTube for words, Vice, Buzzfeed, blogging and niche newsletters, are all thriving, which proves the case for more an unfiltered environment, rather than a controlled one… (one of the reasons Facebook is losing users.)

Think about the indie publishing markets future like the ripples caused by a stone being dropped into water.

Today, we are in the centre… time to ride the ripples outwards as they and the market expand.


Did you know Electric Eclectic has its own Amazon store?

@open24 lists all Electric Eclectic books, books from associate publishers and a range of gifts for writers and readers.

Have a browse now, @open24, an Amazon store.

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Bait your books to catch more readers.

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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.

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Hanging fabric onto a Tenter

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:

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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.

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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.

To share this information I created two books, The Frugal Author, which is all about publishing at the lowest costs for the maximum return, and ‘Lots of Author Stuff You Need to Know’, which contains, funny enough, lots of author stuff you NEED to know.

These books are full of useful and enlightening information, are designed to help you avoid making costly mistakes and to help you generate profit as early as possible.

Both books are published as low-cost eBooks, waiting for you to download right now.

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Do you share my literary DNA?

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Now, here is the thing.

Do you believe your writing has been enriched and influenced by the books you have read?

If so, is it just the good books, the ones you love, the ones which made some connection with your soul?

Or… would you say the bad books have an equal hand in affecting your stories?

By ‘bad books’ I don’t mean the poorly written, but stories that aggravated, annoyed and even rasped on your sensitivities. The ones that you recall for the opposite reasons to those you loved, which means, in their own way, they too made a connection with your inner being.

So, did those bad books achieve the aim of their authors and if so, should we consider them good books for that very reason?

Something to ponder.

Here’s another matter for thought while on this topic.

I don’t write stories which have any direct connection with the books that made a mark on me. Like the historic African based fiction of Wilbur Smith; whose books I devoured as a teenager. My books are not based in history, in Africa or in any set time, as it happens.

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Neither do I attempt to write like Criena Rohan, (Deirdre Cash), whose book, Down by the Dockside still resonates with me today.

16279954While I enjoyed such wonderful works as Catch 22, Life according to Garp, and Do not go Gentle, I have never tried to replicate those authors style or attempt to write in their chosen genre.

In fact, I write the only way I can; by scribing the thoughts and feelings flitting through my mind at any given time. Oh, and as quickly as I can, before those very contemplations disappear into the amnesiac blankness of absolute… now, what was it, where was I?

So, I wonder how much and how many of those authors I read, the ones who pen compositions of illusion, write of their imaginary netherworlds and create the fictitious lives of the characters inhabiting them, find their way onto the pages and into my own work, without my being aware of their presence.

Are we, us writers and authors, part of all those who have gone before? Do we inherit, by some magic, some mystery, a trace of another, many others, literary DNA?

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Are our own stories part of a continuous evolution of literary nature? Are you, in therefore my brother, my sister, my sibling or, in that context, my child?

If so, are you writing my words, is your hand guided, even in part, by that which I have written before?

Or are my words part of you?

Now, there is something to contemplate.


Thank you for reading this post on Ramblings from a Writers Mind.

I do hope you will read at least one of my books, either an Electric Eclectic novelette or one of my prime works. All can be found on my website right, HERE

Keep Happy, Paul

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