Editing your Amazon record
2-3 weeks after approving your proof, you will see your title appear as a record on Amazon.com in the US (inheriting the basic details that you entered when uploading to Lightning Source). LSI allocates a new “child” ISBN identifier to your title, which differs from the “parent” ISBN. Until recently, your eBook would also have appeared on Amazon.co.uk. However, Amazon have turned off eBook records on their UK site (pending the integration of their recent Mobipocket acquisition).
Your record will look pretty empty to begin with. There will be no cover art, very little descriptive data, no reviews and no capability to search inside the book. Don’t worry. All this data can be added directly via the Amazon site.
The first key step is to ensure that your basic data on Amazon is accurate by clicking on the “correct errors and omissions in this listing” link in the “feedback” section at the bottom of your record page. After logging in, you are presented with a choice of data to amend, including: (a) title, (b) author, (c) languages, (d) binding, (e) number of pages, (f) publication date and (g) format/edition. Once you have made your changes, you will be shown a summary; click on “submit update” to confirm. Please check you are happy with your author name; they may have picked up your full name from Nielsen Book Data for your parent ISBN record. If you don’t want the world to know your funky middle name, now is the time to amend it!
The second step is to add some descriptive context about your book, including a brief description, a biography of the author, a review from the publisher and transcripts of the inside flaps and back cover. Make sure you have handy (a) your publisher name and contact details and (b) the ISBN of the title you wish to amend. Then go to the Amazon Online Content Form at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/add-content-books (for UK) or http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/browse/-/13685601/002-7175313-1376023 (for US).
Assuming the ISBN you entered matches Amazon’s catalogue, you will be passed to an input screen with a series of free-form boxes; where each box corresponds to a field in your Amazon record. You are encouraged to fill in as many of the boxes as you like and the boxes scroll down if you need a little extra space. You should not use any HTML in the boxes (as it won’t work in the way you would expect). Any existing content in any of these fields (e.g. picked up directly from Nielsen) will be over-written in the process. Keep it simple! For example, with the table of contents field, list each item in the table of contents on a line by itself. Remove page numbers, leader dots and other formatting.
Uploading cover art
To upload cover art, it is first necessary to sign up for an Amazon File Transfer Protocol (FTP) account.
To obtain an Amazon FTP username and password, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Whilst it is possible to FTP from a browser, I have never found it very reliable and would recommend instead FTP Voyager (see software links in panel right). In FTP Voyager, set up a new session and type ftp.amazon.com in the site box. Enter your userid and password (freshly received from Amazon) in the appropriate boxes and Voyager is ready to use.
Amazon say on their website “experience has shown that customers are more comfortable purchasing products with accompanying images. Not only will posting cover art improve the look of your page, but it might also help your sales!” I recommend buying a second-hand copy of Adobe Photoshop (see panel right) to get truly professional results. Amazon requires images to be (a) in TIFF or JPEG format, (b) 72 dots per inch resolution, (c) minimum of 500 pixels on longest side, (d) 8 bits per channel sRGB mode. Do not use borders and name your file as the 10-digit parent ISBN (e.g. B000AMF66Q.JPG).
When you are ready to upload your image, click “connect” in FTP Voyager on the session you set up earlier. Once the command “LIST” has been successfully executed in the scripting box at the bottom of the screen (messages 150 and 226), you know you are connected. In the top window the directory will be: ftp://ftp-1.amazon.com/catalogue/incoming. Now you simply drag and drop the cover art file from the middle box (your PC directories) to the box at the top (the Amazon incoming directory).
Your image should appear on your Amazon page within 48 hours. Amazon advise that, should your image not appear within two to three business days, to check you have followed all the specifications for preparing and saving documents and images, then resubmit. There is no point in emailing Amazon, either with your image file attached or to chase it not appearing on the record. They will ignore such emails.
Authors used to upload interior art for their table of contents, first chapter, inside flap, or other textual content. Now, however, Amazon demand you join their search-inside-the-book (SITB) programme to do this. With SITB, customers can browse sample pages and do additional searches inside a particular book from the book record page itself. This is perfect if you want to confirm that the title is just what you’re looking for. All of this helps publishers and authors to sell more books.
To join SITB, in your role as publisher, you must first visit http://www.amazon.com/SITB and complete a Search Inside the Book agreement. Once you have signed the Publisher Participation Agreement and are accepted into the programme, you will be set up with a user account at Seller Central by a member of the Amazon team. Next, you will receive an invitation to join Seller Central, which you should accept. The Amazon team will then manually confirm the authenticity of the email you used to sign-up and activate your account.
To get started, sign-in at http://sellercentral.amazon.com and choose the "Search Inside the Book" tab on the main page. Make sure your PDF file follows Amazon’s rules, which are (a) turn security off, (b) embed all fonts, (c) minimum 150dpi for all images, (d) no crop marks. The filename is, again, based on the ISBN (e.g. B000AMF66Q.PDF) and the PDF must be a complete book that includes front and back covers. You have an advantage over traditional authors, who have to send Amazon a physical copy for the team to then scan page-by-page. As you can imagine, many publishers can’t be bothered and there is a huge backlog for Amazon to process.
Marketing & Promoting your book
Getting good reviews on your Amazon page is the most effective way to start. I do not advise “spoofing” reviews as this is unethical and could lead to your book being de-listed. Instead, include your email address towards the back of your book and invite your readers to contact you. When they do so (with positive feedback) reply politely and invite them to submit a review to Amazon, saying explicitly that this will help you drive sales. Include the review URL in your email, to help them out. You could even offer to reward them with a complimentary copy of your second edition (when available).
Outside Amazon, the best free way to promote your book is by submitting excerpts (or articles which build on your book) to article repositories (used by webmasters to source topical free content for their websites or ezines). Pick only sites with a Google PageRank of 5 or greater and submit only to relevant categories; you will soon find your articles scattered across the web and ranking well in search engine results. I can recommend eZinearticles; Ideamarketers and netterweb to get you started.
Most sites permit you to include both an author bio (“resource box”) and one keyword-rich anchor-text link in the body. Use these to make people aware that you are a book author, to name your book and perhaps to link to a page from which the reader can purchase your book (e.g. a page on your own site). You will be amazed by the jump in sales that a well-executed online articles campaign produces!
Blogs are becoming an ever more popular phenomenon on the web and many authors have established blogs as a way of staying in touch with their readers. Setting up a blog using Google’s Blogger is a simple and rewarding experience. By adding the same articles you are submitting to repositories (or simply keeping a diary of your recent thoughts on the topic of your books) you can attract more traffic than you might suspect from hungry, blog-loving search engines. Be sure to include an advert for your book in the side-bar, complete with a PayPal “buy now” button.
Managing & Tracking your earnings
You should not neglect your own log files or site statistics in seeking to understand the success of your eBook marketing strategy. For various reasons, data on hits, files, unique visitors and repeat visitors are of only marginal use. The key measure for you is referrer data, where the link a visitor clicked on to arrive at your site is counted as a referrer or referring site. By tracking the number of referrals each month that you get from each search engine (and comparing this to their respective market shares) you can get an idea of how your performance is improving over time.
Amazon Sales Rank (shown in your eBook record under “Product Details”, e.g. in Books: #202,125) measures how well items in the Amazon Catalogue are selling (where the lower the number, the higher the sales for that particular item). The calculation is based on Amazon sales; updated each hour to reflect recent and historical sales of every item sold (including Marketplace). Recent sales are given higher weighting than the old. Monitor your sales rank over time against your competitors. The sales-rank-to-real-sales curve follows a logarithmic shape, whereby a book with an average rank of 1,000 or lower may sell over 100 copies a week, whilst one sale a week only would see you outside the top 500,000.
Your LSI Publisher Compensation Report gives a real-time tally of earnings and can be accessed by mousing-over the drop-down menu “My Account”, “financial information (view & pay), “publisher compensation”. In the form that comes up, select the most recent reporting period (e.g. March 2006) and put your author name in as surname, first name (e.g. Viney, David). Check LSI US (eBook only) then click on “display report on screen” to bring up the report.
Banking the proceeds
At the end of your first LSI reporting period, you will be due some US Dollar receipts (which you will receive 90 days later). You can opt for funds to be transferred into a US Dollar account directly or to be paid to you in the form of a cheque.
There are organisations in the US that can help non-US residents to set up a US-based US Dollar account but set-up and running costs can be high and the account tricky to use, by UK standards. I use Citibank in the UK, who do provide a US Dollar current account that supposedly clears in New York. However, in practice the clearance is via a three-step process and neither PayPal nor LSI will settle electronically into the account. For this reason, I get LSI to pay me by cheque and bank those by mail with Citibank.
For direct sales (via my own website) and Mobipocket & Lulu receipts, I take payment using PayPal. I could the convert my PayPal dollar balance into Sterling and transfer it to my Sterling account. However, to avoid charges, I prefer to leave the dollars in my PayPal account and use them to make personal purchases on eBay. If the pound ever reaches record lows against the dollar then I’ll have to rethink that plan!
Your most effective marketing strategy is based on a good quality Amazon record, with strong reviews, decent cover art and search-engine friendly description. Use a mixture of weblogs, sales ranks and compensation reports to monitor your success. Thick ahead about how you plan to bank your proceeds, to minimise charges.
If you have enjoyed these free excerpts from my book, then you can find much more detail – and step-by-step advice – in the full eBook. Download from this site or from Amazon using the links in the panel right.