Amazon Book Review Policy: Blessing or a Malediction

Amazon’s new book review policy makes it really difficult for some new authors and titles to get highly coveted reviews.

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I say “new” policy, because quite frankly, it’s new to me, although it must have been implemented within the past two years.  The main issue is the fact that people who purchase a product (particularly a book for purposes of this conversation) need to have spent at least $50 in purchases on Amazon.  Not $50 in one purchase, but no less than that amount prior to leaving a review.  Personally, I think that sucks.

Quality Assurance

I’m sure that Amazon feels their policy is about quality assurance, and I can respect that.  When it comes to acquiring honest and legitimate reviews, I’m all for it – 100% and any author who really cares about their work and reputation probably feel the same way.  But I fail to see why a person who chooses to support an author by purchasing a book and following up with a review has to be a regular Amazon customer.

Any individuals who choose to try and defraud the system with bogus reviews aren’t hindered by this issue; not when they already have a budget in place for this type of deception.  It seems to me that the people who are most adversely affected by this are the authors who lose out on much needed reviews because some of their readers have no particular loyalty to Amazon.

I mention this point because my sister is an AVID reader, only she has a Nook (Amazon/Kindle competitor).  The more than two thousand dollars she’s spent over the years on books go to Barnes & Noble, or Audiobooks, not Amazon.  In the past, I’ve been hesitant about asking family and friends to support my writing.  Now that I’ve published: Skipping Childhood:  A Novel (From Abused Foster Child to Adolescent Serial Killer), I’ve been busy rallying the troops to buy and review the book.  A dark urban drama about a dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship. From child abuse to murder, the suspense mounts after each killing.

VIEW BOOK TRAILER

I had my sister set up an Amazon account and make her purchase there, but three days later after finishing the book, she wasn’t allowed to leave a review, due to the aforementioned policy.  I’m concerned now, because she won’t be the only one from my support system that has this problem.  So I guess I’m screwed on getting reviews from those I knew I could count on.  BUMMER!

Hands are Tied

With so many strict rules and regulations regarding acquiring reviews, the average new author and his/her titles have little to no chance of being discovered.  Most of those really creative ways that you come up with to obtain a review are now a “no no” with Amazon.  No review swapping and certainly no purchased reviews are tolerated.  This has really got some of our hands tied.  If any authors out there have found any ALLOWABLE solutions, feel free to comment below.

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New Amazon Authors: Do You Know What You Write and Who You Write For?

There is one all-important thing that I have come to appreciate about writing a book. It is important to know from the very beginning, as well as during the middle and at the end of the process, just exactly what you are writing and who you are writing for.  I know you’re probably thinking “Duh? That goes without saying.”  Or maybe something like, “I already know this”, or “Yeah, I’ve heard this before.”  Well even if you have heard it before, you’d better be good and certain that you fully understand what it means by the time you get to the end of the writing process.  Besides recognizing and understanding this point, you also need to apply it.

NOTICE THESE AMAZON CATEGORIES AND HOW MANY LEVELS DEEP THE SUBCATEGORIES CAN GO

amazon-category-structureIn the above example, you might lose out if you’re some kind of “epic” writing genius and you only list your title in the more broader “Romance / Science Fiction” category.

What are you writing?

I speak from experience, because this isn’t the first time that I have finished a complete novel and though I thought I was writing one thing, I later discovered that I had actually ended up writing something else.  Not something worse, just something different.

Finding this information out long after the fact can end up being detrimental to getting exposure for your book’s title.  I’ll save the details about my first experience with this for another time.  Right now, this conversation is specific to my new book:  “Skipping Childhood:  A Novel” (From Abused Foster Child to Adolescent Serial Killer).

This dark urban drama about a dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship starts with child abuse but ends in murder.  The suspense mounts after each killing and a neglected 12-year-old fights to survive abandonment and foster care.

I wrote this book with all the enthusiasm of an author who is writing a dark thriller, full of suspense. But while Skipping Childhood has thrilling elements as well as elements of suspense, there is also another major focus.  It is the child abuse and the dynamics of the dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship.

amz-categories

In searching through the different Amazon categories, I came across the parenting and relationship option, which also offers two additional subcategories; abuse and child abuse.  Taking advantage of this particular category may prove to be a lot more beneficial to my title.  Not only is this category more specific to the book’s content, it is also a category that is not as broad as the urban, or thriller and suspense categories which are extremely popular. (More about this in the KDP section below)

On Amazon, listing your title in a category that has less competition means you have the possibility of your book receiving a higher ranking for that specific category.  Your potential to rank among the top 100 in that category is much more increased. This of course will get your book title more coverage and visibility than if you were at the bottom of a popular category.

So before you start to go with the mainstream and get buried in too broad of a category, you may want to think in terms of targeting a smaller niche subcategory. Since Amazon allows you to select two categories, you can even go with one broad category that matches your book’s content, as well as the more closely targeted niche.  This is what I recently did with Skipping Childhood.  The changes just became effective so I’ll try to watch the progress, although now, I also have some other variables to be considered.  (More about this in the KDP section below)

Who are you writing for?

Just because you’re smart enough to determine what you are writing doesn’t automatically mean you realize who you’re writing for.  One of the things that helped me to determine what it was that I had actually written (after the fact), was the blog that I created as a companion to my book.

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My Skipping Childhood (Ramblings) blog has helped me to take a good, long, and thorough look at the focus of my novel and what is driving the story.  This is when I was able to recognize how much the complex relationships between the characters stood out.  The blog has given me a valid reason to discuss the book on a regular basis, and a platform I feel strongly committed to.  As I began to interact and get feedback on book-related blog posts, I get closer to the people that my writing is for.  This doesn’t mean that readers who love urban drama and suspense novels can’t or won’t find me; it just means that those who prefer other aspects of the book will find me as well.

RECENT “”Skipping Childhood (Ramblings) BLOG POSTS:

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KDP select

Since the December 1st release of Skipping Childhood:  A Novel, there has been one decision that I wrestled with concerning distribution.  I hesitated on whether or not to submit the title to KDP select.  I’ve used it in the past, and did not experience the success that I imaged I would.  That is why I really hate the idea of tying up my new title for 3 months and making it exclusive to Amazon.  Nonetheless, I decided to do it anyway, especially since I’m prepared to do a whole lot more marketing of this title.  I’m determined to master the strategies of becoming a best-selling author on Amazon so now is as good a time to start as any.

Here’s the dilemma that I created for myself before thinking about it more.  Not only did I sign up for KDP Select, but I also started running another Amazon Marketing Campaign (the other one was short-lived because the keywords were off).  I also chose to run a promotion for two free days.  So now, I have:

  • New book category
  • New keywords
  • Amazon Ad Marketing campaign (2 days)
  • Free Days promotion (2 days)

I think I may be doing too many things at one time.  If something actually works, it may be difficult to determine what it was.  That means I’ll need to pay close attention to my Amazon stats so I’ll know how to duplicate an activity that actually succeeds.  By next week this time when I post again to this blog, I’ll have something more about this to report.

KBoards’ “Book Discovery Day” Promotion (Update)

My KBoard Book Discovery Day was scheduled for their Tuesday blog post, the day they typically feature new or overlooked books.  Since I’m committed to giving an honest review of the $15 service, I’ll admit to my readers that I was a bit irritated when I went to their blog page several times during the course of the day, only to find that the book discovery related post wasn’t posted yet.  That being said, I decided to cut them some slack after checking for the final time on Tuesday evening.  I resolved to just wait and view the posting tomorrow (now today).

After a quick run to my local post office this morning, I checked in with the KBoards blog at 11:00 am and still no mention of the current “Book Discovery” titles.  I found the previous Tuesday’s post, as well as other previous dates, but not the current post.  Then I remembered that they said to be sure and check their Facebook page about the blog post.  When I went there, that’s where I saw the current link.  I followed the link and found my book details midway down the page (screenshot below).

“Book Discovery” Benefits?

So the question is this really a beneficial book promotion service and would I use this particular promotion again?  FOR SURE!  I don’t know how much I’m winning with it right now because it’s too soon to tell, but I know I’m definitely not losing by getting my book in people’s face.  So be sure to check me out on the:

KBoards Book Discovery Day (Blog Post)

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There was one small point that I was a little miffed about; the fact that the blog post link – when used in social media – automatically displays one of the book images from the page and it wasn’t mine.  I had to make sure I indicated in my posting that my book is ONE OF THE BOOKS featured on the page, so they wouldn’t mistakenly think the image in the social media post was my book.  Other than that, I was happy to make various mentions about the KBoards blog post to my own Twitter, Google+ and Facebook accounts.

Feel free to let me know your thoughts if you decide to use KBoards.

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KBoards: Why I Plan to Use Kindle Boards Book Marketing in 2017

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As most new and existing Indie authors know, KBoards is a popular Kindle book marketing resource site.  They offer a number of great of marketing and promotion opportunities for new indie titles.  In a previous blog post, I spoke about two of those marketing opportunities.  Today I would like to provide updates on one of those services.  That service is the $35 “one day featured book” service.

I knew my book, “Skipping Childhood: A Novel (From Abused Foster Child to Adolescent Serial Killer) would be featured for one day on Monday November 28th.  The night before, I decided to log into KBoards and see if there were any suggestions on what I could do the next day to help me get the maximum benefit from the promotion.  It just so happens that it was after midnight when I logged into KBoards, which meant that technically it was already Monday.  Low and behold, the first thing I see when I log onto the sight was my book ad – YAY!

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I checked into the website periodically throughout the day and of course my ad was still there, just as promised.  I know that KBoards is a reputable site with a pretty good Alexa rating.  They get very decent traffic, therefore, your book can gain a good amount of exposure, even for one day.  Although I’ve yet to see what the results are from this promotion, I believe the $35 is money well spent.  I may even purchase the two day plan next time around.  I think it was $80.  If you’re a self-published author with a new title to promote, I wholeheartedly recommend using KBoards.  You can notice what the simple but (hopefully) effective book ad looks like in the screen shots below, plus see how strategic the ad placement is on the page.

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FEATURES OF BOOK AD SERVICE

There are several things to notice in this second screenshot (below).  First of all, there are links in your add that will offer visitors 3 different ways to view your book.  I believe the “Open it” link should enable them to read a sample, however since my book is a pre-release, the sample text is not available until the actual December 1, 2016 release.  Therefore, this particular link in my ad did not work.  Authors may want to keep this point in mind if you plan to use the “Featured book” service prior to your own book’s release.

The second accessible book link is the “Amazon” link in your ad.  This allows visitors to go directly to your book’s Amazon buy page so they can purchase it right then and there.  Cool huh?

The last link in your ad is a cool “Hover” link.  It allows them to see details about your book by simply hoovering over the link.  The screenshot you see below is an image I captured when I used the hover link.  As you can see, my book details for ““Skipping Childhood:  A Novel” is displayed.  Visitors get a chance to see that this title is an urban novel and a dark coming of age story about a twelve-year-old who resorts to killing as retribution.

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To learn more about this book, feel free to visit the book’s new compaion blog site:  skippingchildhood.blogspot.com because it outlines details about the book, as well as the characters.

To learn more about KBoards, visit:  www.kboards.com

Book Marketing: Promoting Your Self-published Title on a Limited Budget

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If you’re a new indie author like me; you know that book marketing is the hardest part of the whole writing a book process.  Promoting your self-published title on your own is definitely no easy task, especially if you’re on a limited budget.  There are some pretty straightforward things that you can do yourself, and even authors who can afford costly marketing fees still take advantage of some of these same tactics.

Here are a few not too expensive actions that I’ve taken to help promote my new title:  Skipping Childhood: A Novel (From Abused Foster Child to Adolescent Serial Killer).  Once you look over these services, you may find that you’re already familiar with them, and maybe have already tried them.  If not, why not check the websites out and see if they’re worth your time.  I only implemented the services very recently, so it’s too soon for me to discuss the results, but I’m hopeful.  All the websites listed below seem pretty reputable and should be able to provide at least some exposure for your book.  It definitely won’t hurt to try the services, even it takes a while for noticeable results.

After you’ve had a chance to check out the book promotion sites that I’ve just recently tried, be sure to pay attention to what I think is another awesome idea.  I stumbled across a form online that may help in more ways than you might imagine.

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Try Amazon Book Marketing Services

Amazon sent me an email regarding a new (or newer) marketing feature that they’re offering to KDP authors.  It basically works a lot like Google’s Adwords.  You can either run an ad campaign based on keywords, or based on other books and products that relate to your own.  The minimum Ad campaign amount you can start with is $100, so that’s what I did.   That amount can actually be stretched over a period of time, depending on the maximum amount I want to spend per day.  For instance, if you do like I did and select a 30 day period to run a campaign, that allows me a $3.33 a day budget before my hundred bucks is gone.  It’s a little more detailed than that, but that’s the gist of how it works.  I’ll post any results when I have them.

By the way, I had to supply some text as a caption for my ad, so I chose a variation of my book’s tagline.

Killing just ain’t right, but neither is child abuse. A twelve-year-old girl  takes matters into her own hands and when she does, it’s murder!

Hopefully this will be catchy enough to make viewers want to learn more about the book.  I pay for each click a person makes on specific keywords (it’s deducted from the $100), so I hope my words adequately convey what they’re searching for before they click the ad.

Check Out KBoards

For those who don’t know, KBoards stands for “Kindle Boards” and for good reason.  All the forums on the website and various resources relate specifically to Kindle books.  For example, I purchased the $35 service for a 1 Day Featured Book Ad.  My “Skipping Childhood” related book ad will run on Tuesday, November 29th.  On Tuesday When I visit the KBoards blog at:

http://kboards.blogspot.com and their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/kboards

I will be able to see my ad featured there for the day.  It sounds like the kind of exposure that “Skipping Childhood” can really benefit from.  We’ll see.  If all goes well, the next time I’ll order the 2 day book feature for a little more.

KBoards Offer Much More

Since KBoards have so much to offer, I also selected another cool book marketing opportunity that was also economical.  This was the KB Book Discovery for only $15.  By now you may be thinking, “hmmm, not bad” and you’re right.  For a few dollars, why not get as much more exposure as possible?  Now that I’ve got your attention, I’ll let you visit the KBoards website and see what you get for this $15 service.

Consider Your Local Library

Now it’s time to consider something you may not have really given thought to for your self-published book; your local library.  Hold on one moment and I’ll tell you why.  The fact of the matter is,  most of you savvy indie authors are probably already up on KBoards, not to mention the ever popular Goodreads, and Book Daily, two more popular sites.  If you are, that’s a good thing, but the fact that they’ve become so popular is reason enough not to rest all your hopes in their services.  There are just so many of us authors vying for needed attention.  That is not to say don’t bother trying these or other options; it’s just to say don’t limit yourself to these.

KBoards, Goodreads, and Book Daily are options that have really become like second nature to new authors and especially two-time self-published authors (by the second time around, you know the ropes).  Try them yourself and if they serve your particular purpose, great, use them again.  If not, move on to the next one, but in order to do that, you’ve got to start compiling a list of options; paid and non-paid.  And don’t be too lazy to SERIOUSLY monitor results.  I’ll talk more about this later in the week when I share screenshots from my Amazon marketing campaign.

Now about the local library.  I actually went to my local library and left an author introduction letter for the “adult books” librarian, along with a book flyer with details about “Skipping Childhood”.  In it, I told her several points about my African American urban life novel.  I briefly mentioned how it is a sort of twisted coming of age story about a twelve-year-old serial killer.  Later when I got home, I decided to try to find some actual email contact information for the librarian.  I discovered something even better on the public library website for my area.  It was a form for individuals to actually Submit a Purchase Request for a particular book.  Among the dropdown options to identify yourself were:  “Author” and also “Patron” so that let me know it was okay to submit my own book.  YAY!

There was a comment box at the end of the form, and once again, I took an opportunity to introduce myself as a local author and asked for their support.  Now for the REALLY cool part.  Since the form was specific to the library nearest me, I decided to search for another nearby library.  I located the site and luckily, all the sites were set up the same, with the exception of having their own special events, photos, etc.  I found the form to submit “Skipping Childhood” to another library.  The auto-form fill even worked, so all the information just popped in, the moment I put the first character in the box.  Needless to say, I got busy and submitted my request to as many libraries as I could before I got tired (50 in all).  I offered to provide courtesy print and digital copies from those who specifically requested them.

I’m not sure what results to expect, but I sure felt proud of myself for such an earnest effort towards the success of my book.  I realized also that if I could submit a request as the author, perhaps I could get some other locals to make the same request for my book.  That way, maybe librarians will see the title is in demand, and actually stock some for their branch.

With that said, if anyone in the Southern California area is near one of these Public Library locations, you can make a request to them to purchase a copy of “Skipping Childhood” for your nearest branch.  The print book will be released in January 2017, plenty enough time for them to order a few copies.  Some libraries also make digital downloads available, but if you use the following information, the ISBN is specifically for a print format.  All the information to make a library request for “Skipping Childhood” is below.  If you live in another state and would like to do the same for this book, please check for a link to your local branches.  Thank you.

Click this link:  Public Library

Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page and look on the right side of page for the “Contact” link.  Follow the contact link to the “Suggest a Purchase” link and simply insert the following details under the section that says:

Fill in these Suggested Item Details:

TITLE:  Skipping Childhood:  A Novel (From Abused Foster Child to Adolescent Serial Killer)

AUTHOR:  Charm Baker

PUBLISHER:  Just Charm Publishing

PUBLICATION DATE:  Jan. 1, 2017

ISBN:  978-1540648808

FORMAT:  Book

Get Innovative with Your Marketing

As you can see, this whole library option could turn out to be quite promising, even if only one or two librarians support you, they still may have a lot of influence on whether others buy or read your book.

If you’re a new indie author looking for more book marketing options, why not give these a try?  When you only have a limited budget to promote your book, give your new title every opportunity for exposure that you can.  Good Luck!