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jfreedan
01-09-2016, 06:01 PM
I take a lot of offense at this article, which seems to associate those who employ SEO techniques to be subpar or dishonest.

In actuality an "intelligent human being" is someone who can use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to cheaply and easily build awareness of their book even while they are sleeping. It's clear Medievalist doesn't understand what SEO is or how to do it, which results in the disdain she clearly has for the practice. This ignorance should not spread and that article should be unstickied.

It's been a number of years since I came back to these forums. I abandoned them after getting tired of the bad advice that was constantly getting dispensed here, and I'm disappointed that it's gotten so bad that common sense is being ignored. This is perhaps the worse marketing article I have ever seen in my entire life and I am dumbfounded that authors are being directed to it.

As someone who has built a six-figure business using primarily SEO to generate customer leads, I can tell you this article is woefully wrong and that article should be removed because it is leading many self-published authors down a path of foolishness that will only ever waste their time. Like, if I had an employee who ever posted such a thing I would terminate them on the spot because it would demonstrate they have NO IDEA how to market a product and obviously are not competent at their job. That is how awful that article is.

Medievalist, your advice that "good writing" is more important than marketing is wrong. It's not a matter of opinion; it is just factually incorrect. SEO and "good writing" are not even in the same category of thing as one another.



Writing a book is a manufacturing process. It is the creation of a product.
SEO is a marketing process. It is the promotion of a product.


The simple fact that there are barely comprehensible non-fiction books (because they were churned out using article spinning software) hitting best-seller spots on Amazon proves that "good writing" doesn't sell itself.

Take a look at the foreign language learning, nutrition and travel niches on Amazon for obvious examples of what I am talking about.

A well manufactured product never sells itself. If that were the case nobody would invest into product packaging, sales staff or perform any kind of paid advertising. You always have to tell the customer why they should buy the product, and in the case of selling books this is even more crucial because nobody can open your book up to read it unless they are first aware of the book.

Having a "quality product" is nothing more than having a solution to some problem. In this case of non-fiction books it is often how to do something, whereas with fiction it is to satiate a reader's appetite for certain kinds of stories they are looking for. But in all cases they must first discover the book in order to buy it.

How is anyone supposed to discover a book if authors do not promote them? What is it you suggest in place of SEO?

Instead of SEO you suggest authors send out email queries to blogs; basically you tell authors to focus on requesting customer reviews, which is perhaps the most challenging kind of promotion to do and simply will not be feasible for the average self-published author who has no social media presence, prior work or any kind of notoriety that will warrant attention to the review requests.

Your suggestion that authors should simply write well and then send out review copies demonstrates you have no actual experience successfully promoting books as a self-published author who is new to the market and have gone through the ropes yourself.

Those few blogs which actually perform unpaid reviews fall into one of two categories:


Low viewership to the blog, meaning sales from the review will be non-existent.
High viewership to the point the blogger(s) are overwhelmed with review requests and are consequently very selective in the books they take.


If you compare the time an author invests into trying to convince people to review their books, and the same amount of time into SEO, SEO will produce more sales. This is because SEO allows you to get your book in front of potential buyers, whereas querying bloggers who review books will rarely result in an actual review getting produced.

SEO allows you to create your own page on the internet that tells people why they should buy your book, rather than try to convince someone else to write that web page. Just do it yourself!

Listen to me; I sell books every_single_day and I only sell books every day because I SEOed the hell out of the books. My sales landing pages get 10,000+ views a month or more and this converts into regular sales of books.

If I never did any SEO I would have sold no books, period.

Also the advice to just talk to people online, to "comment without leaving a link to your book", and somehow this will magically generate sales is equally poor advice. People buy a product when there is a problem / solution fit, not because you made internet friends with them.

Authors who wish to self-publish need to become masters of self-promotion, and online sales are the cheapest and most efficient kind of sale to acquire because you can tailor your sales funnel pages. Creating sales funnel pages for your book and optimizing the articles for search engine queries is one of the few ways that anyone can use to generate sales for their books, and to deter people from doing so is simply irresponsible advice.

If you are an Author who gets upset when you see a 20 page ebook of barely comprehensible Engrish outselling your 300 page masterpiece, and wonder why that is happening, the answer is simple: It's because the other author had no qualms with using SEO to build awareness of their book, while your book sits lost in the hundreds of other Amazon results with the other authors who think themselves too good to promote their own books.

Good products do not sell themselves. Good salesman sell, and part of being a good salesmen these days is leveraging the internet to generate customer leads. So do it.

Fight fire with fire. Learn how to use SEO techniques to build awareness of your book from search engine results. It's perhaps the only form of promotion you can do that will actually generate sales for the low price of web hosting and a domain name.

Latina Bunny
01-09-2016, 06:25 PM
Hmm... I would think that books have some sort of promo, even if it's just a link in a signature on AW. I believe threre is also a section for announcements about promo stuff (like books on sale, etc), too.

I don't understand how SEO works, actually...

Could you give some examples or suggestions on how to use it effectively? That could be helpful for some of us who have no clue about this sort of thing, lol. :)

jfreedan
01-09-2016, 06:32 PM
SEO stands for search engine optimization. The goal of SEO is to get a specific website page to rank higher in search engine queries for specific phrases.

For example, if you wrote a book about paleo diet, you'd want to identify what people type into Google Search to locate information about the paleo diet such as recipes and such. Identifying the specific phrases people enter into a search engine, and then using these phrases in your blog article will cause a search engine to place that article into the list of pages to suggest to the person conducting the query. The "rank" of your page is then determined by dozens of other factors, such as number of backlinks from other sites, freshness, the "authority" of the domain address the page is on, number of times the phrase (and related phrases) appears in the article and so forth.

SEO is a very technical discipline which requires constant education, as search engines are always updating their algorithms. There's many blogs which focus on providing this information.

The goal of an author employing SEO is to build a sales funnel page for your book that is filled with ad copy designed to entice someone to buy the book, and then get this page to rank on the first page of results on Google, Bing, etc. when someone is looking for a book like yours. Sometimes these sales pages are stand-alone websites, and other times they are part of a publisher website or the personal blog of an author.

A lot of SEO these days is focused on content marketing, which means giving away free information designed to establish expertise and then lead the reader to buy your product that will further solve the problem they have. With the paleo example, you might list some recipes from your book on your blog article, and then ask the reader to buy your book if they want more recipes.

An example for fiction would be to identify phrases people are entering into Search engines, such as "books like Harry Potter" and then make an article called "Books like Harry potter" and put your book into the list.

If you are a writer, there's absolutely no good reason to not learn how to do SEO. One of the main requirements is to be a writer, so if you can write a book half the job is already done. The next step is to understand how search engines work and then use tools to identify the popular search queries that would be relevant to you. There are many free ones available, including provided by Google (such as the AdWords keyword Planner).

CassandraW
01-09-2016, 06:41 PM
I ignore that kind of marketing crap, and indeed, am prejudiced against authors and books that use it.

The people who fall mainly for it, I would guess, are people who blindly buy, as you put it, a "20 page ebook of barely comprehensible Engrish". I'm not writing for them.

jfreedan
01-09-2016, 06:52 PM
I ignore that kind of marketing crap, and indeed, am prejudiced against authors and books that use it.

The people who fall mainly for it, I would guess, are people who blindly buy, as you put it, a "20 page ebook of barely comprehensible Engrish". I'm not writing for them.

This is another thing; assuming your personal habits are the same for millions of other people.

I don't know how truthful your statement is, that you don't use search engines to locate products.

What I do know for a fact is that the reason Google makes billions of dollars a year off paid advertising is because the overwhelming majority of consumers use search engines to locate products to buy. Amazon itself is a search engine.

Why you would not want to understand how the #1 bookstore in the world works and leverage this knowledge to sell your own books, I cannot relate to. It's pretty counterproductive.

I attribute author disdain for self-promotion to much of the garbage written in agent and publisher blogs that authors are reading and repeating as if it's the gospel truth. Of course they don't want authors to learn how to self-promote. If authors knew how to sell their own books, they'd be out of a job. But I guarantee you any publisher who is selling books is employing someone to do SEO on sales pages for those books. It is the cheapest and easiest kind of promotion possible.

CassandraW
01-09-2016, 07:10 PM
I have never once used a search engine to find books I might want to buy. I am extremely particular about the books I buy (though I buy many), and read samples before I buy. I won't even waste my time with a free book unless I fall hard for the writing style.

Perhaps some people do, I don't know. But I think it likely depends on the market you are trying to target. I doubt many readers of, say, sophisticated literary fiction, use search engines to locate the type of thing they want. And they are quite unlikely to accidentally buy a 20-page piece of illiterate crap.


I use search engines to do research on, say, the best coffee maker or electric toothbrush. Books? No.

ETA:

Perhaps I might use one if I were trying to find a self-help book on a given subject. But then I'd take a close look at it and research it before I purchased it. (And I'm not really into self-help books, anyway.)

NateSean
01-09-2016, 07:14 PM
At the risk of alienating a lot of the people I have come to form a strong forum-based relationship with, I do agree with a lot of what you say. However, all advice is subjective. Even the relatively well established members of this forum can't get it right all the time, and it's really up to the aspiring successful author to decide which advice is suitable. I do appreciate your candor, however. As I am the sort who sees what's happening in the news and what is trending on Twitter and thinks, "How can I use this to attract attention to my blog", I can't disagree with what you've written.

I also know that there are plenty of people here and in my own writing group who openly despise authors like Stephanie Meyers and whoever else is writing the latest angsty-teen-dystopian franchise, yet those authors can obviously eat three meals a day and also have some pudding snacks. So who am I to judge?

If I didn't want people to buy my books, I wouldn't go to the hassle of formatting my manuscripts to be acceptable for submission to Smashwords. So any advice at all that you have for making my book more salesworthy, please, dispense and I will listen.


I have never once used a search engine to find books I might want to buy.

I have though. And if that sophisticated literary fiction has been out of print for a while, you're likely going to use the Internet to track that book down. And even if you go to the library, or a bookstore to order that book, they're also going to use a search engine (even if that search engine is operated out of their own website) to track it down. That is just the kind of world we're in.

jfreedan
01-09-2016, 07:17 PM
I use search engines to do research on, say, the best coffee maker or electric toothbrush. Books? No.

Are you trying to sell books to yourself, or other people?

If the answer is "other people", then you need to re-evaluate your beliefs on this matter. And I assume you want to sell books to other people.

According to Google there is an average of 2.5 million search queries per month by people based in the USA related to "literary fiction".

This is why it's really important to first understand things before dismissing them.

Helix
01-09-2016, 07:21 PM
Are you trying to sell books to yourself, or other people?

If the answer is "other people", then you need to re-evaluate your beliefs on this matter. And I assume you want to sell books to other people.

According to Google there is an average of 2.5 million search queries per month by people based in the USA related to "literary fiction".

This is why it's really important to first understand things before dismissing them.


Judging by the threads in this forum, I'd imagine that most of those 2.5 million searches are some variation of "what is literary fiction?"

CassandraW
01-09-2016, 07:27 PM
Are you trying to sell books to yourself, or other people?

If the answer is "other people", then you need to re-evaluate your beliefs on this matter. And I assume you want to sell books to other people.

According to Google there is an average of 2.5 million search queries per month by people based in the USA related to "literary fiction".

This is why it's really important to first understand things before dismissing them.

I'm not sure that tells us much about whether such a search was done in order to purchase books, or how many of those searches resulted in book sales. It's rather difficult for me to imagine a discerning purchaser of literary fiction finding books by typing in a google search for "literary fiction."

(I would and have used a search engine to locate a particular out-of-print book I wanted. But then I'm looking for something in particular I already know I want, which is entirely different from trying to find new books.)

jfreedan
01-09-2016, 07:29 PM
If I didn't want people to buy my books, I wouldn't go to the hassle of formatting my manuscripts to be acceptable for submission to Smashwords. So any advice at all that you have for making my book more salesworthy, please, dispense and I will listen.


Happy to help.

Step 1. Make a list of every book that you think your book is similar to.

Step 2. Find a SEO analysis tool in your price range. I won't recommend any specific ones, as I don't want people to assume I am here to promote any service. Do your research, check the top SEO blogs and find one that is adequately priced. The tool should work for both Google and Amazon. Both sites use their own databases and although there is a lot of commonality, often the popular queries can be different on Amazon than on Google.

Step 3. Enter the titles of those books that are similar to your own into the analysis tool and keep track of all the long tail keywords (any search phrase of more than 3 words, like "Yellow-haired Siberian kittens").

Put those keyword phrases into your book product description field on Amazon, smashwords, etc. as part of the summary. Don't just keyword stuff, make meaningful sentences using those keywords.

For the search phrases that get the most search queries (thousands at the bare min. ; ideally at least tens of thousands but this also depends on the popularity of the niche) write a 800+ word article for your blog using that search query as the title of the blog. For example, "How to breed yellow-haired Siberian kittens" might be one of these popularly searched for queries that you write a blog article about.

Put a direct link to your book sales page in the article. Your book sales page should be on your own domain for it, like yellowhairedsiberiankittens.com or something. From the sales landing page then link to where it can be purchased, Amazon or such. Use an affiliate tracking code, or a URL shorterner at least so you can keep track of how many sales you actually generate from this sale landing page and refine the sales copy on the page to get more click-throughs.

This is a very basic summary. There are more advanced things you can do but I would be writing a book all day if I covered them all.

PS: I do not write books about siberian kittens, it's just the first thing that popped into my head to use as an example

CassandraW
01-09-2016, 07:29 PM
Judging by the threads in this forum, I'd imagine that most of those 2.5 million searches are some variation of "what is literary fiction?"

That would be my bet.

cornflake
01-09-2016, 07:31 PM
There seems to be some disconnect here - the sticky doesn't say 'without ever using SEO;' it advises on book promotion without being 'an SEO dweeb.' These are two different things, as are fiction and nonfiction.

Further, Cassandra didn't say she never uses a search engine to find a product she's looking to buy. She specified books.

There's a difference between utilizing SEO to try to get a Paleo cookbook in front of people searching 'Paleo recipes.' and attempting to use SEO to sell a novel. I don't know who uses search engines to look for novels.

That barely-literate Wiki paste jobs end up on the top of Amazon 'bestseller' lists is indicative of nothing. Some of those lists are the most restrictive categories ever, and their system is questionable. Someone might have two friends buy their pamphlet and put it on the 'bestseller' list, which might garner a few more sales. Fairly quickly, literacy will out.

jfreedan
01-09-2016, 07:37 PM
I'm not sure that tells us much about whether such a search was done in order to purchase books, or how many of those searches resulted in book sales. It's rather difficult for me to imagine a discerning purchaser of literary fiction finding books by typing in a google search for "literary fiction."

It's an opportunity.

If someone has expressed an interest in a subject, they can often be convinced to purchase a product related to this interest. That's why the world has so many odd products for cooking; lots of people like to cook, so they can be convinced to buy some weird contraption that claims to improve their cooking.

Likewise if someone is interested in a specific genre of fiction, you can suggest your own books in the sidebar of your blog and people will check those books out and possibly even buy them. I sell books on my own blog like this.

But let's move past the genre. I'm sure your book is about something, and I'm sure lots of people are searching about that something on Google. If you create like four articles about that subject and get that article to rank well for search queries related to that subject and you list your book in that article as something people might be interested in, you will generate awareness that simply did not exist before about your book. And building awareness is the only metric that truly matters in marketing; the more awareness you have, the more sales you make.


I don't know who uses search engines to look for novels.

If people didn't use search engines to look for fiction, then why do people write book blogs? How do you think they get the traffic then? How do they manage to build a business out of ad revenue and Amazon affiliate clicks if they aren't getting viewers to their blogs? These are things your assumptions don't consider.

Type "best new fantasy book", "fantasy books 2015", "new fantasy books" and then use a tool to check the traffic on these sites and you'll see people do in fact use search engines to locate fiction. You can replace "fantasy" with any genre and you're going to find high search volume and traffic.

Let me tell you why Amazon is the world's #1 bookseller. Because millions of people use search engines to buy books.

jfreedan
01-09-2016, 07:57 PM
There seems to be some disconnect here - the sticky doesn't say 'without ever using SEO;' it advises on book promotion without being 'an SEO dweeb.' These are two different things, as are fiction and nonfiction.

Fiction and nonfiction books are both products. Doesn't matter what the product is, the techniques are universal. The specific details of what your persuasive writing designed to sell the product may be different, but the technique is the same. Sales is sales.



There's a difference between utilizing SEO to try to get a Paleo cookbook in front of people searching 'Paleo recipes.' and attempting to use SEO to sell a novel. I don't know who uses search engines to look for novels.


Everyone who uses Amazon. It is a search engine, after all. The commonality that all search engines have in common is they use textual data to determine placement of page rankings. So if you know how to write an article that will rank highly on Google, you also know how to write a book product description and choose a book title that will rank highly for desired search queries on Amazon.

This is important stuff for authors to master in the age of digital sales.


That barely-literate Wiki paste jobs end up on the top of Amazon 'bestseller' lists is indicative of nothing. Some of those lists are the most restrictive categories ever, and their system is questionable. Someone might have two friends buy their pamphlet and put it on the 'bestseller' list, which might garner a few more sales. Fairly quickly, literacy will out.

Sure, if your book is discoverable. That doesn't change that the sole reason a poor quality book will outsell a superior quality book is due to better marketing on the part of the inferior product.

Marketing is actually more important than manufacturing quality. This is why most of our products are manufactured in third world countries but the marketing is done in the country the product is being sold (and the marketers are paid more than the manufacturers are).

This shouldn't be construed as endorsing the sale of poor quality products. Rather I am pointing out you can't compete with inferior products using better marketing unless you yourself also use good marketing habits for promoting your product.

And books are products. If you don't think your book is a product then you don't need to sell it to anyone.

Ravioli
01-09-2016, 08:14 PM
My interpretation of Medievalist's words was that she was referring to the loveless, impersonal copy-pasta full of key words and devoid of consideration for the audience of each individual platform, which is reminiscent of the bulk of text and key words often found in less impressive SEO jobs.
As opposed to promotional texts and material the author has put thought into beyond using SE-friendly key words, and actually proves to be aware of each platform's individual audience.

Edit: thanks for the correction concerning address :)

jfreedan
01-09-2016, 08:31 PM
My interpretation of her words is based on what she said. First, the title of it says "SEO dweeb". Nowhere in the article does she endorse any kind of SEO practice. She actually compares SEO to fraud.

Her advice is basically this,


You're not constantly selling your book, or making forum posts or blog comments just to market your book.


People, because we are curious monkeys, will click your link to see "who is this?"

But by engaging honestly, and creating conversation and community, you will have readers, and some will buy your book. And if they like it, they will blog about, or post reviews, or tweet about it.

And thus more people will find your book.

And if it's a good book, they will read it and find things to like.

And they too will participate in the conversation.

And it's nonsense. If you aren't constantly selling your book and you are a self-published author, WHO WILL? I guarantee you that your book will never become a trending topic on Twitter if nobody knows it exists. Only a minority of purchasers ever bother to leave reviews for products or share those products with friends and such.

Mostly what people share on social networks are advertisements which you yourself must create and promote to get those re-shares. I know quite a lot about this, because I've leveraged social networks to sell for a long time. If you want a link to your book to get shared on social networks, you have to create the initial post and promote it yourself (often using paid ads no less). I've done this with videos that have acquired hundreds of thousands of views on Facebook, and photo ads that get hundreds of comments and reshares. It's a good way to promote a product like a book, but it requires having specialty knowledge of how social network ad platforms work (i.e. how to use Facebook Power Editor to tailor an ad so it is only seen by people who will buy books, which requires using behavior category filters many people don't know exist and won't be obvious in the settings). And it costs money, at least $500 or so to get results.

By comparison, $9.99 on a domain name and then $15 a month for web hosting, and a $50 wordpress template that you then setup yourself is cheaper and will generate sales for a long time if you successfully get the site to rank for good search queries. All you need to do is invest into time writing the articles and sales landing page, and then sharing the link (and yes, absolutely share in forums related to your book. So long as the culture on the forum is supportive of people who contribute to the community by writing books, you will generate goodwill and make sales). And that is a better use of time than trying to email hundreds of bloggers and beg for a product review. You should only do that after you've setup a sales funnel and done SEO work on your sites.

Hoping hundreds of thousands of people just magically discover your book and reshare it with your friends is never gonna happen, and it's unlikely there will be a repeat of what authors like Amanda Hockings experienced, who got an explosion of sales because they launched when the Kindle store just came out and there was little competition. Now you have to actually work at promotion to get results.

CassandraW
01-09-2016, 08:32 PM
I would be curious to know how you justify a statement like:


Fiction and nonfiction books are both products. Doesn't matter what the product is, the techniques are universal. The specific details of what your persuasive writing designed to sell the product may be different, but the technique is the same. Sales is sales.

It is not true that sales techniques are "universal". That's not even true for consumer products that fall under the same general category -- they do not market high-end designer fashion the same way they market low-end bargain fashion, or high-end cosmetics the way they market drug-store stuff. Literary fiction is not paleo cookbooks.

If Cormac McCarthy marketed his books the way James Patterson does, I think it would be a total turnoff to many (likely most) of McCarthy's readers. And even to the extent it wasn't, I don't think it would do much to sell his books. He apparently agrees; I don't see him on TV hawking "The Road."



ETA:

I could go on all day on how marketing techniques vary even within the same industry. I'm a lawyer, and I can tell you that if an elite corporate law firm used the same marketing techniques as personal injury attorneys, they'd lose clients rather than gain them. You might notice that Harvard, Yale, and Cornell do not advertise the way DeVry University does. Per Se restaurant in NYC does not do bus stop ads the way McDonald does.

The customers are different and the way they find what they're looking for is different; hence, so are the techniques.

Lillith1991
01-09-2016, 08:39 PM
I disagree strenuously that fiction and non-fiction are the same marketingwise, Op. People look for new fiction via things like "Best Fantasy 2015" lists, New York Times Best Seller lists, "most influential Crime Fiction" etc. And while they do find things via blogs, readers looking for fiction are picky about the book review blogs or author blogs that they trust. Fiction sales are more a word of mouth type of thing than a search engine one, and as such a writer can't expect to use the exact same technique when selling Fiction and Nonfiction. There are some spots where things overlap, but overlap doesn't equal the exact same.

jfreedan
01-09-2016, 08:45 PM
If you genuinely believe I am wrong about sales techniques being universal, I suggest you purchase some books on business, especially with sales.

I recommend Selling the Wheel by Howard Stevens and Jeff Cox. You need a hard reboot on your thought process in order to see the truth of what I'm saying, and I don't have the time to write that kind of essay. You are focused on fine details, rather than the big picture. As a rose is a rose, Marketing channels are marketing channels, and all persuasive writing has a common format.

MacAllister
01-09-2016, 09:11 PM
Yeah. We have a word for people who sign up for these forums just to copy-paste posts all over the place, stuffed with keywords, full of links to their books and websites, and all the reasons they think you ought to buy it. It's the same word we use for people who sign up to copy-past posts all over the place trying to sell shoes, fake Rolex watches, or viagra: spammer. Everyone hates that crap. It quite pointedly does NOT sell books, because it leaves such a foul smell in the room.

We all know those perfectly nice people on Twitter who never say anything without flogging their books, articles, and websites. They're boring.

This stuff doesn't sell books. It gets the practitioners unfollowed, blocked, and sometimes even banned.

It's pretty clear that's what Medievalist was talking about -- and it's also pretty clear, jfreedan, that you came back here with a big ol' chip on your shoulder, looking to pick some kind of slugfest.

That's not going to serve you well, you know.

CassandraW
01-09-2016, 09:17 PM
If you genuinely believe I am wrong about sales techniques being universal, I suggest you purchase some books on business, especially with sales.

I recommend Selling the Wheel by Howard Stevens and Jeff Cox. You need a hard reboot on your thought process in order to see the truth of what I'm saying, and I don't have the time to write that kind of essay. You are focused on fine details, rather than the big picture. As a rose is a rose, Marketing channels are marketing channels, and all persuasive writing has a common format.

I see you don't have any links in your signature about your books, nor do you explain how you acquired the knowledge to qualify you to give us all a "hard reboot on [our] thought processes" -- other than your self-asserted personal experience (a strategy you reject when we assert our own).

Care to address? What are you selling so successfully? And on what basis do you assert that you are so very much more knowledgeable than the rest of us?


ETA:

And by the way? I can tell you this -- we laugh and ignore people who are on here marketing all the time. They are annoying and utterly ineffective. Do a poll and see.

I click on people's signature links or stuff in their announcement threads after I've seen them be amusing or intelligent -- then, and only then, do I click on those links and see what they've written and whether I'm interested. I've bought quite a few books from AW members -- but that's because they've given me good reason to think I'll like what they've written, not because they've slammed the board with annoying generic blurbs.

cornflake
01-09-2016, 09:22 PM
What Cassandra said. The idea that you might sell some books to people by loading up on search terms and targeting fucking Facebook ads isn't unknown, but many people who write books don't simply want to sell them to people who might be so ... as to respond to those ads. Many people want their books to find an actual audience, of actual readers. Selling a litfic novel to someone who typed 'suicidal daughter' into Google isn't really their goal.

If it were, they might produce crappy, Wikipaste pamphlets, because you can sell those like that too, and it's much less effort.

You could probably sell some Birkin Bags using SEO, but if you did, it wouldn't be such a successful product. Selling isn't selling, everything for sale isn't a product, every consumer isn't the same.

Perks
01-09-2016, 09:27 PM
I started my efforts toward publication about eleven years ago. Since then, I've been involved in a number of facets of the business from craft to query and onto the clockworks of the publishing process. I've talked a LOT of shop with successful writers all over the world. And I've managed to get two books published.

The opening post in the thread in question is one of the most correct, honest, and useful things I have ever seen on the internet for book promotion.



As someone who has built a six-figure business using primarily SEO to generate customer leads,

I'm not sure this is the mike-drop moment you think it is. Even moreso if you're not talking about a book.

AW Admin
01-09-2016, 09:30 PM
If you genuinely believe I am wrong about sales techniques being universal, I suggest you purchase some books on business, especially with sales.

I recommend Selling the Wheel by Howard Stevens and Jeff Cox. You need a hard reboot on your thought process in order to see the truth of what I'm saying, and I don't have the time to write that kind of essay. You are focused on fine details, rather than the big picture. As a rose is a rose, Marketing channels are marketing channels, and all persuasive writing has a common format.

Dude.

I'm medievalist, wearing my official hat.

SEO of the sort you're discussing is bullshit designed to sell SEO services. That's what it does best.

It's an infinitely recursive pyramid scheme.

All persuasive writing does not have a common format; you write for your audience.

The kind of SEO you're talking about, dweeb SEO, goes south every time Google revises their algorithm.

As in Google Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird . . . etc.

But good writing, writing for an audience, writing that engages, will survive and flourish.

It's not like Google and other search engines are enemies; they're attempting to help good content that's well-written, accurate and interesting flourish, by sinking (lowering their search rank in a listing of sites) poorly written, poorly researched content.

Here's the basics of how to do make your content on the Web easy to find (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?241431-How-to-promote-your-book-like-an-intelligent-human-being-and-not-an-SEO-Dweeb&p=7147957&viewfull=1#post7147957) complete with links to Google's own best practices:

Google's Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide (http://static.googleusercontent.com/external_content/untrusted_dlcp/www.google.com/en/us/webmasters/docs/search-engine-optimization-starter-guide.pdf)

By the way, I used to be a "rater" for Google. I learned a lot. They really do want to help good content thrive.

JHFC
01-09-2016, 09:33 PM
How are you on here for 10 years without knowing that starting a thread with "Medievalist is full of shit" is not going to get you anywhere on this site?

Williebee
01-09-2016, 09:36 PM
My interpretation of her words is based on what she said. First, the title of it says "SEO dweeb". Nowhere in the article does she endorse any kind of SEO practice. She actually compares SEO to fraud.

Your interpretation. As in coming from your own pre-conceptions, inferences and experiences. You took the words, "SEO'd" them and responded to the top return, without considering the next 10 possible returns. And there is every chance that you got it wrong.

This isn't a search engine. You have a doubt about what a member says here, about their opinion -- be a contributing, thinking, professional. ASK.

Opinions are good. They can be useful, even the ones we disagree with. More so when they come from a place of demonstrable authority.
sheesh

Perks
01-09-2016, 09:42 PM
How are you on here for 10 years without knowing that starting a thread with "Medievalist is full of shit" is not going to get you anywhere on this site?

In my life I've met and cybermet some truly, deeply, and reliably intelligent people. Medievalist is in the top tier of those. And we've even butted heads from time to time, so this ain't no shilling for my soulmate.

She's amazing.

MacAllister
01-09-2016, 09:54 PM
It seems fairly obvious to me that jfreedan didn't actually read the post he's objecting to, and certainly didn't read the thread. Some of the best website-building advice for amateurs I've ever seen is in this post:

I wouldn't ask marketing folk; I'd ask Webmasters and UI folk.

The principles of good writing and good html rule the Web hand-in-hand.

You want a site that works for non-standard users—people who use adaptive tech, or are color blind, (http://webdesign.about.com/od/accessibility/a/aa062804.htm) or on low-bandwidth services, or mobile platforms.


You want a clear navigational path.

You don't want unreadable text—too small, too light, or against a background that will frustrate readers.

You want Contact, About, and other important pages clearly labeled, and one click away from the top page.

Don't have a splash page.
Avoid Flash, for most sites.


Honestly, I'd urge people to use a solid template and a CMS, whether WordPress or Blogger or Typepad. All of them have professionally designed templates for free, or fairly inexpensively. I'm especially fond of clean templates with lot of white space.

And I say this as someone who still hand-codes CSS and HTML, and Javascript, and has done since 1997.

Amateur graphics are best avoided. Be aware that lots of people identify themselves as "Web designers," not realizing that that's a particular skill set that doesn't mean merely modifying CSS. And also be aware that some templates contain adware or malware.

Use images as accents, rather than overloading the page with slow-loading distracting graphics.

You want people to read your words, and want more of your words.

Emphasize words.

Use clear titles on posts and pages. Use explicit links—rather than the old-style practice of linking a word like this:


You can find Google's advice about writing and links here (http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=35291).

Use links like this one:


Read and follow Google's Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide (http://static.googleusercontent.com/external_content/untrusted_dlcp/www.google.com/en/us/webmasters/docs/search-engine-optimization-starter-guide.pdf).

The difference is that the text that the reader clicks describes the link content.


Use metadata; for instance, the html Cite tag (http://www.w3schools.com/html5/tag_cite.asp) for titles of longer works. It tells search engines that you're talking about books. That helps in terms of ranking and indexing.

Keep most of your posts or pages short—300 to 500 words on average (I suck at this part).

If you write a lengthy piece, use headings to divide it into sections.

Figure out your core pages and the navigation before you start creating the site.

JLCarver
01-09-2016, 10:02 PM
I, for one, found both Medievalist's thread and this thread to be very informative, to be honest. Medievalist's thread is full of helpful information, and I appreciate the SEO commentary and explanation that jfreedan offered. Maybe the OP's delivery needs a little work, but it was still full of interesting information, especially for someone looking to indie publish (hopefully!) through KDP as soon as next month.

Nothing more than that to add other than to say thanks for the interesting discussion!

Kylabelle
01-09-2016, 10:12 PM
Good luck with that, JLCarver, I hope you do really well.

I'd say that "delivery needs a little work" is a rather massive understatement, however. :) I mean, just for one example, that Medievalist actually does a huge amount of the work involved in keeping AW functioning for all of us to use. Seems rather over the top to hand out insults toward such a person.

And, just a small point: not everyone here is trying to sell something. I am not; many of us are not. SEO means exactly zilch to me, therefore. The assumption that all of us, all writers, need to learn SEO in order to sell and promote is baseless (at best.)

CassandraW
01-09-2016, 10:20 PM
I'd say that "delivery needs a little work" is a rather massive understatement, however. :)


+1

Even taking aside the needlessly aggressive and condescending attack on Medievalist's post (it is possible, you know, to assert a dissenting opinion without doing that), this kind of thing...


You need a hard reboot on your thought process in order to see the truth of what I'm saying, and I don't have the time to write that kind of essay.

...immediately makes me stop listening. It has that effect on many people, which makes me wonder how much you actually know about marketing. If you want to sell ideas, you need to make people want to listen to them. Telling us we need "a hard reboot" and you could give it to us but can't be bothered...well, that's not going to be so effective.

Show us. Politely. Maybe then we'll be more convinced.

ETA:

Maybe that approach works somewhere -- I don't know. But not here. As several of us have noted, this is why it's important to understand your audience.

Perks
01-09-2016, 10:30 PM
I appreciate the SEO commentary and explanation that jfreedan offered. Maybe the OP's delivery needs a little work, but it was still full of interesting information, especially for someone looking to indie publish (hopefully!) through KDP as soon as next month.



The trouble is that while SEO hammering might give a boost (often temporary) for other types of "products" I've never seen any writer with good sales (and a good reputation) offer SEO as anything that helped. Same with avalanche-style social media campaigning.

Writing is an art, publishing is a business - and the business end cannot be neglected. It's just that it's not like most other businesses. What works for selling widgets and thingummybobs does not work for selling books. We know how people find books - from writers they already know, or new-to-them writers recommended by friends or reviews, active promotion (ads or displays) in venues they frequent to find books (bookstores, libraries, and word-oriented publications) or at random, by way of an interesting cover with good jacket copy and a compelling opening - probably mostly in that order.

If delving into SEO tactics interests you, then it might be fun to learn about it, but you have to know that it's a diversion from what really sells books.

Ari Meermans
01-09-2016, 10:46 PM
First, I'm linking back to Mac's post (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?314782-WRONG-quot-How-to-promote-your-book-like-an-intelligent-human-being-and-not-an-SEO-Dweeb-quot&p=9693908&viewfull=1#post9693908) because it bears much repeating, especially for anyone who wants to promote effectively using all the tools at their disposal.

Now, I'm afraid I'm just going to have to disagree that the original post in this thread is informative. It isn't. Distilled, the post is a rant without a supporting foundation for the claims made. It's also quite clear the OP doesn't read for comprehension because Medievalist never even intimated the things he claims she posted; keyword-stuffing was the villain of her piece. And, had he read further into the thread--I guess that was too much work--he'd have read the post where she called SEO a desired thing when NOT used to game the system:


Search Engine Optimization.

The idea is to write text on the Web that ranks higher in search engines.

That's not the reason they're dweebs; that's a logical desiderata.

But there are people accomplish high-ranking in search engines by attempting to game the system. They "keyword stuff"; using the same words over and over again, for instance. They pay people to link to them.

The truth of the matter is that good, careful, thoughtful and genuine writing trumps the more arcane SEO techniques.

Engaging the members of your audience as the actual human beings they are with likes, dislikes, and interests not having a damned thing to do with you-the-author or your precious book always will be one of your most effective promotional tools.

JLCarver
01-09-2016, 10:54 PM
The trouble is that while SEO hammering might give a boost (often temporary) for other types of "products" I've never seen any writer with good sales (and a good reputation) offer SEO as anything that helped. Same with avalanche-style social media campaigning.

Writing is an art, publishing is a business - and the business end cannot be neglected. It's just that it's not like most other businesses. What works for selling widgets and thingummybobs does not work for selling books. We know how people find books - from writers they already know, or new-to-them writers recommended by friends or reviews, active promotion (ads or displays) in venues they frequent to find books (bookstores, libraries, and word-oriented publications) or at random, by way of an interesting cover with good jacket copy and a compelling opening - probably mostly in that order.

If delving into SEO tactics interests you, then it might be fun to learn about it, but you have to know that it's a diversion from what really sells books.

I absolutely agree with you about writing being an art. I take a lot of pride in what I write, and I fully believe that, in order to maintain a high level of acceptance, you need to have a compelling story told in a unique way, otherwise it's like a meteor entering the atmosphere with a second-long flash that burns out.

The reliance on SEO is really an extension of the traditional publishing model for marketing and their take on marketing's role in successful books. Publishers are quick to credit their marketing efforts to explain why a book gains a lot of traffic, often at the expense of the author's work. The fact that a book is good is usually the last thing on a publisher's list of reasons for why a book is a surprise best seller. And, if a book is successful, other publishers react by creating similar covers, writing similar blurbs, using similar keywords, etc. It's what Kristen Kathryn Rusch calls the reactive business model (http://kriswrites.com/2016/01/06/business-musings-the-reactive-business-model/).

This is what Rusch suggests that we, as indie authors, should do in place of the reactive business model--and I think it bridges the gap between what Medievalist and jfreedan suggest for marketing:


Start by being creative. Write what you want to write. Don’t think about marketing until the project—whatever it is—is done.

Then consider how to market the project. Be creative in the marketing too. Don’t just imitate what was done before.

Sure, try some of that, but also, look at your project and figure out what makes it unique. Market the uniqueness to the readers somehow.

If you can’t figure out most of what makes marketing work, then put an excellent cover on the project, write a spectacular blurb, put the right tags on it, price it high enough so that you have the room to discount if and when you want to but not too high to turn off the bulk of your readers (see the pricing posts (http://kriswrites.com/2014/01/15/the-business-rusch-pricing-discoverability-part-7/)), and then…

Write the next project.

That's why I found both threads interesting, because I think both threads apply. If you have the tools to use--and you've written a really great story--then you can use some of the tools that SEO provides to get your story in front of reader's eyeballs. And, if you have written a really great story, those readers will do their part in the marketing process by word of mouth. But I don't think it's an either/or situation. I think it's a blend of both. (And I think that's what a lot of other posts in this thread are suggesting as well.)

cornflake
01-09-2016, 10:59 PM
Again though, Medievalist wasn't suggesting SEO is never to be used.

JLCarver
01-09-2016, 11:04 PM
Again though, Medievalist wasn't suggesting SEO is never to be used.

And I wasn't suggesting that she was. The thing that I took as valuable from this thread was the in-depth explanations of SEO and how it might be used to market a book. I guess I'm seeing some of the posts in this thread for the information, devoid of personal reactions, because I don't know either of them other than these few posts I've read here. As far as I'm concerned, both are really smart people with valid information that I can add to my repertoire when marketing becomes an issue for me.

Perks
01-09-2016, 11:07 PM
Publishers are quick to credit their marketing efforts to explain why a book gains a lot of traffic, often at the expense of the author's work. <snip> The fact that a book is good is usually the last thing on a publisher's list of reasons for why a book is a surprise best seller.



Can you tell me what has led you to believe this?

JLCarver
01-09-2016, 11:09 PM
Can you tell me what has led you to believe this?

I linked to the blog post in my post: http://kriswrites.com/2016/01/06/business-musings-the-reactive-business-model/

In it, Rusch explains the reactive business model and how publishers will look at a surprise best seller as reflective of their marketing efforts rather than the good writing of the author. Granted, it's one blogger's take on the business of publishing, but what she wrote makes a lot of sense in my experience. (I have an MA in writing and publishing, so I found it interesting to read.)

Perks
01-09-2016, 11:27 PM
I'll have a look at the article, but there will be nothing at all to support the assertion that publishers will make a book worse somehow to make it sell better, because it's simply untrue. Not sure how anyone would ever quantify that, anyway. And when a book does well, the absolute first thing they credit is the merit of the work. This isn't speculation. This is what I've seen over and over, and to some small degree, experienced myself.

Over the past seven years, I have worked with agents, and also with editors and production teams at Random House, Penguin, and my own publisher, Simon & Schuster. There is no more an enthusiastic group. They love books. They love good-writing. They are excited about their own projects and competitive in-house to ensure their efforts yield successes. Now, this doesn't take away anything from the subjectivity of what is good and what is not, nor from them simply getting it wrong sometimes. Sometimes things are bungled. Sometimes best efforts fail. Sometimes things even fall through the cracks. There is an uncontrollable element of who sees what you've done, and under what conditions, that no one can effect. Sometimes kind of "bad" books do well and other "great" books fall flat on their covers.

But it's not half as cynical as the quote I pulled from your post would have us believe. The team at the publishing house - the acquisitions people who took on the work, the committee who approved it, the editor, the copyeditor, the design team, the art department, the marketing people, and the publicity people all put their work into it. And like any business, no one wants to work hard toward failure. And everyone in the business knows that the primary hope of any book is how good it is. You can tweak, fiddle, jockey for position, and even burn chicken feathers on an altar to help it along, but no one in publishing credits those elements above content for a successful book.

JLCarver
01-09-2016, 11:30 PM
I'll have a look at the article, but there will be nothing at all to support the assertion that publishers will make a book worse somehow to make it sell better, because it's simply untrue. Not sure how anyone would ever quantify that, anyway. And when a book does well, the absolute first thing they credit is the merit of the work. This isn't speculation. This is what I've seen over and over, and to some small degree, experienced myself.

Over the past seven years, I have worked with agents, and also with editors and production teams at Random House, Penguin, and my own publisher, Simon & Schuster. There is no more an enthusiastic group. They love books. They love good-writing. They are excited about their own projects and competitive in-house to ensure their efforts yield successes. Now, this doesn't take away anything from the subjectivity of what is good and what is not, nor from them simply getting it wrong sometimes. Sometimes things are bungled. Sometimes best efforts fail. Sometimes things even fall through the cracks. There is an uncontrollable element of who sees what you've done, and under what conditions, that no one can effect. Sometimes kind of "bad" books do well and other "great" books fall flat on their covers.

But it's not half as cynical as the quote I pulled from your post would have us believe. The team at the publishing house - the acquisitions people who took on the work, the committee who approved it, the editor, the copyeditor, the design team, the art department, the marketing people, and the publicity people all put their work into it. And like any business, no one wants to work hard toward failure. And everyone in the business knows that the primary hope of any book is how good it is. You can tweak, fiddle, jockey for position, and even burn chicken feathers on an altar to help it along, but no one in publishing credits those elements above content for a successful book.

...I don't think I ever said that a publisher will make a book worse to make it a best seller. Now you're reading into my words. I don't even know how you got all that out of what I wrote. Kind of bizarre, if you ask me.

And I'm sorry I got involved in this conversation. I should've left it alone.

AW Admin
01-09-2016, 11:44 PM
An example for fiction would be to identify phrases people are entering into Search engines, such as "books like Harry Potter" and then make an article called "Books like Harry potter" and put your book into the list.

And Google's algorithms and human search raters will flag your post.

Content, genuine content, not keyword stuffed crap, will rise higher and will stay high.

Write for readers, not algorithms.

Write to engage; readers will review and tweet and Facebook and email other readers about your post/book.

People will read and buy your book. It's what readers do.

And write a new book; new books sell your backlist. A new book is just about the best possible publicity and marketing for your previous books.

Parametric
01-09-2016, 11:48 PM
Publishers are quick to credit their marketing efforts to explain why a book gains a lot of traffic, often at the expense of the author's work.


...I don't think I ever said that a publisher will make a book worse to make it a best seller. Now you're reading into my words. I don't even know how you got all that out of what I wrote. Kind of bizarre, if you ask me.

I think there's an ambiguity in your original post as to whether the publisher credits book sales to the marketing effort rather than giving due credit to the quality of the author's work, or whether the marketing gains traffic at the expense of the author's work, ie. the publisher's marketing actively damages the book.

JLCarver
01-09-2016, 11:52 PM
I think there's an ambiguity in your original post as to whether the publisher credits book sales to the marketing effort rather than giving due credit to the quality of the author's work, or whether the marketing gains traffic at the expense of the author's work, ie. the publisher's marketing actively damages the book.

Maybe. But I still think it was reading into it too much. Because in that very same post, I said that it was the work of the writer that maintained a best seller. That's simply cherry picking one statement out of the whole post and writing a diatribe against me for it.

What I meant to say was that publishers will pat themselves on the back for their marketing efforts when they sell a lot of books, and they often won't credit an author's work as the cause for selling a lot of books.

evilrooster
01-09-2016, 11:59 PM
A mod comment entirely orthogonal to the topic at hand: it's my experience as a moderator that threads often reflect the tone of the OP long after the conversation has drifted.

The OP is heavily critical, not based on sound and close reading of the topic it criticizes, and very much lacking in charity.

I double-dog-dare everyone who wants to further participate in this conversation to prove me wrong by reading one another's posts carefully and generously, allowing for differences of opinion, and treating one another with respect, kindness, and consideration.

Perks
01-10-2016, 12:08 AM
I linked to the blog post in my post: http://kriswrites.com/2016/01/06/business-musings-the-reactive-business-model/

In it, Rusch explains the reactive business model and how publishers will look at a surprise best seller as reflective of their marketing efforts rather than the good writing of the author. Granted, it's one blogger's take on the business of publishing, but what she wrote makes a lot of sense in my experience. (I have an MA in writing and publishing, so I found it interesting to read.)

ETA - My evaluation of the blog article is not against you, JLCarver. Just my opinion of the piece.

Yeah, as I thought. I don't agree with her conclusions and I can't see where her assertions are well-informed.

We've all said that publishing is a business, so there's nothing surprising at all that when publishing sees something that's done well, they attempt to analyze it to see if they can apply some of the same props for any number of their own projects. And it yields results sometimes. That's not revelatory, and it's not an indictment of trade publishing.

From the article:


Most of us, as writers, believe deep down that a publisher can make a bestseller. A writer can’t write one.

Why do we believe it? Because of Narrative Number One. If traditional publishing can’t figure out why a book everyone in the know hated sold well, then clearly, the book sold well because of the ads or the cover or the push that a select portion of the sales force gave it.

The book couldn’t have sold well because it was a good story. Because people outside of the literary bubble enjoyed the read.

And if crappy books sell well, then that simply proves the point: the only thing that will make a book sell is the proper marketing.

Rubbish. It's true that marketing campaigns are great for selling books. No one denies that and not many would deny that big publishing houses do big marketing campaigns better than what smaller groups or individuals can manage on their own. (And it's ad and store placement [not SEO] driven, to bring this back on topic.) What she seems not to take into account is that the difference between "good" books and "bad" books is actually a much finer-toothed comb for those of us in the business than for most readers. Mostly they don't read for high contrast between like items. They read because they like to read. Assessment of quality is an intensely private process. It would be pointless to pander to it. Nobody knows who is going to like what, and pretty much everyone in publishing admits that. Publishers take their personal tastes, their experience, and whatever they can glean from what is happening in the market to make their decisions. That's not sinister and it's not wrong, small-minded, or outdated. And contrary to this article I have never seen readers or writers denigrated by publishing professionals of their own projects. (With the possible exception of anecdotes of diva behavior which has nothing to do with writing, of course.)

Everyone takes their best guess, and books that the Big 5 acquire for seven figures (and promote accordingly) fail at a depressing rate, while smaller-parade books zoom to acclaim on, apparently, magic. Take Tana French's, IN THE WOODS. (No, seriously, take it. It's brilliant.) It was a modestly acquired debut novel. It went through its pre-publication paces and released to mild, standard-fare push from her publisher. It was clipping along to satisfactory-but-not-gangbuster result, and then a lady who hosted a radio show on NPR happened to pick it up in a bookstore. She loved it and mentioned it several times on her show and sales exploded. It became a huge bestseller and award-winner. Same of THE RED TENT, by Anita Diamant. Julia Roberts had been given the book by a friend and just happened to mention it on Oprah.

And I have no idea where she's decided that this is what she calls The Narrative -


So why did Susie Q’s craptastic book sell well? The narrative claims it’s all about the marketing. The marketing worked for The Surprise in (ahem) surprising ways. The cover was perfect—not too schlocky, a little different from the usual craptastic fare. The book debuted at San Diego Comic-Con where fans of the craptastic thrive.

I've never heard anyone in the business say anything like this. Everyone knows that bigger marketing and publicity budgets have a better chance at a good result, but there's still a significant amount of finger-crossing.

Of course self-pubs and small indie presses are going to have to try innovative avenues of publicity to get the best bang for their advertising buck. That makes perfect sense. But they can do that without making an unsubstantiated trashing of trade publishing processes, which obviously work quite well.

I'll keep my ears open for success stories in publishing from heavy SEO efforts, but I won't hold my breath. Every indication is that good work is bolstered by smart advertising and good fortune.

JLCarver
01-10-2016, 12:15 AM
Yeah, as I thought. I don't agree with her conclusions and I can't see where her assertions are well-informed. <snip>

I had a long post written. But, you know what? It's not even worth responding. You've obviously approached this entire thread with some confirmation bias, and you won't see anything different than what you expect to see.

So have a good one. I'm out.

Williebee
01-10-2016, 12:16 AM
I double-dog-dare everyone who wants to further participate in this conversation to prove me wrong by reading one another's posts carefully and generously, allowing for differences of opinion, and treating one another with respect, kindness, and consideration.

Heretic.

Perks
01-10-2016, 12:16 AM
...I don't think I ever said that a publisher will make a book worse to make it a best seller. Now you're reading into my words. I don't even know how you got all that out of what I wrote. Kind of bizarre, if you ask me.

And I'm sorry I got involved in this conversation. I should've left it alone.

If I misunderstood, I apologize. It was this -

"Publishers are quick to credit their marketing efforts to explain why a book gains a lot of traffic, often at the expense of the author's work."

It read as if they'd negatively adjust the author's work to fit a marketing effort. Edits are not one-way demands from an editor to an author. If there are elements that an editor thinks would make a book more successful, it's always because they think it would make the book better. And no one gets more credit for a success than the author. I have never heard a publishing professional say of their own project that it was down to great marketing over the quality of the work.

Now, what you will hear -- all the time -- is disgruntled people, even professionals, complaining of other people's successes that way.

Again, I'm sorry that I misunderstood your post.

AW Admin
01-10-2016, 12:18 AM
What I meant to say was that publishers will pat themselves on the back for their marketing efforts when they sell a lot of books, and they often won't credit an author's work as the cause for selling a lot of books.

I've worked in Production, Editorial and as a Web consultant for Marketing as publishers ranging from academic/scholarly (U.C. Press, University of Chicago Press, some tiny uni presses) to independent (W. W. Norton among others) to Big 5 publishers. I've been published by a big 5 publisher.

I've never seen anything at all that suggested that people who work in publishing don't first and foremost credit a book (and the author) for being good and thereby driving sales.

The whole point of trade and academic and scholarly publishing is to find, produce and sell good books.

evilrooster
01-10-2016, 12:20 AM
Heretic.

My username is designed provide the careful reader with a subtle hint as to which side of the good guy/bad guy divide I'm on. Heresy comes with the territory.

cornflake
01-10-2016, 12:27 AM
Even the things that many people don't like, or consider not well-written, but that sell well, I've never heard credited to marketing either. I've heard that credited to people liking the story, or it hitting at the right time, or whatever.

Like, for instance, 50 Shades. That didn't, to my knowledge, have a big marketing push at the outset. If you look back at the same type of fairly soft erotica, there are sprinkled examples of stuff that catch the public interest, every so often, and revive a whole 'the public, or some portion thereof, wants this stuff, who knew?' thing.

Praising marketing, especially for things that weren't acquired with big budgets behind them, seems odd, as many books that were acquired with big budgets and marketing plans don't do well. Be strange to consider that ones that did do well was down to marketing. It's a great book, or it's a book people want right now, for whatever reason.

Perks
01-10-2016, 12:50 AM
I had a long post written. But, you know what? It's not even worth responding. You've obviously approached this entire thread with some confirmation bias, and you won't see anything different than what you expect to see.

So have a good one. I'm out.
I am not attacking you. I do have to admit that my opinions are cobbled together from my own experience, but to be fair, it's pretty good experience.

Over the last eleven years, I've become acquainted with literally hundreds of published writers, agents, and industry professionals. Some of them have even become friends. I've worked with them through years of interviewing authors about their experiences, from self-published to New York Times bestsellers, for two different publications. I spent seven of those years sifting through publishing news for a daily industry news portal.

I've also had my own publishing journey from the first novel I attempted to write back in 2001, to finally getting into print.

I don't mean any offense to you when I respond here in this thread. I think it's entirely fair to counter points with my own perspective.

Perks
01-10-2016, 12:54 AM
Even the things that many people don't like, or consider not well-written, but that sell well, I've never heard credited to marketing either. I've heard that credited to people liking the story, or it hitting at the right time, or whatever.



The more I think about it, the more I have to wonder if it doesn't stem from hearing people, even industry people, grousing about other books that did better than either their own books or books higher in their estimation. That would make sense. We've all fallen prey to some grumpy envy.

People who acquire manuscripts and shepherd them to the shelves, successfully or no, do so because they loved the manuscript. They loved the idea or loved the writing, or ideally loved the two together.

VeryBigBeard
01-10-2016, 12:57 AM
Just wanted to say:

I've linked Medievalist's SEO post many, many times because it's so clear, thoughtful, and well-organized. I have a bunch of friends on Twitter who work in SEO and marketing and who could have taken issue with it. They didn't.

There's too much in the original post to really dig into and debunk. I think it's fairly self-evident, anyway. Every time Google updates its algorithms, SEO gets harder. I know if I was picking an industry or technique to rely on, the one Google has declared war on would be pretty far down my list, for purely pragmatic reasons.

Speaking as a writer, I write for an audience. All other writers I've met know this, but it's something that hasn't always translated well when I hang out with marketers (which I do, sometimes--I went to journalism school, half my graduating class now works in marketing, PR, or tech). It's one of the reasons I really wish marketers would take some writing, journalism, and maybe English courses during their time in school. It's so easy now when universities focus on career-centric programs to take classes that focus entirely on the raw technique of marketing. The best marketers I know are good writers, they know how to write for audience, they read widely, and they know how to think.

I want to be gentle about this because I really agree with evilrooster's point and am glad you made that post so, uh, evilly. I stopped reading the OP after three lines. Medi's post just kind of pulls me in. I've been fortunate enough to have been taught the very basics of marketing by some very good people in tech who know what they're talking about and one of the things they emphasize most is self-awareness. So, OP, my only real message to you (though I suspect you're gone from this thread ne'er to return) is to think about how what you had to offer here was perceived, and why. Audience research is so hugely important--markets are verticals, not wide masses; personas work better than demographics--and if you'd done any research at all on this board you'd have realized how valuable posts have to be to get stickied and how respected Medievalist is for all that she does for AW, and for how much knowledge she contributes here, all free of charge.

Know thy audience.

Know thyself.

ShaunHorton
01-10-2016, 02:02 AM
Given the OP's attitude and ignorance about the actual words in the thread he was referring to, I would have to guess that he came here hoping to sell something. SEO services, perhaps...

Oooo.....did I see a chicken run through here?

evilrooster
01-10-2016, 02:06 AM
Given the OP's attitude and ignorance about the actual words in the thread he was referring to, I would have to guess that he came here hoping to sell something. SEO services, perhaps...

Honestly, I don't see a lot of fruitful discussion about his motives. I'm much more interested in discussions of the content of the posts.


Oooo.....did I see a chicken run through here?

Just walkin' by, lookin' for a road to cross.









No, don't ask.

Filigree
01-10-2016, 08:17 AM
I found the OP interesting, along with the subsequent discussion. I work in marketing. My main job is to write clever and enticing ad copy for an online business, for about 40,000 products. (None of them books.) The last thing my work writing should resemble is standard SEO keyword mashing circa 2009. The OP brings up some valid points that could go alongside Medi's sticky. But the relentless 'market above all else' focus can backfire in both short and long term sales strategies.

Old Hack
01-10-2016, 12:28 PM
Publishers are quick to credit their marketing efforts to explain why a book gains a lot of traffic, often at the expense of the author's work. The fact that a book is good is usually the last thing on a publisher's list of reasons for why a book is a surprise best seller.

Publishing professionals are passionate about the books they work with (they have to be, because salaries are so low in publishing you wouldn't do it if you didn't love the work!). Most editors, agents, marketing people, publicists, will talk with great enthusiasm about the wonderful books they've published. And they almost always put the book first. I don't think I've ever heard one claim that a book did well solely because of how well it was marketed, rather than because it was a great book. But what do I know? I've only worked in publishing for thirty years.


And, if a book is successful, other publishers react by creating similar covers, writing similar blurbs, using similar keywords, etc. It's what Kristen Kathryn Rusch calls the reactive business model (http://kriswrites.com/2016/01/06/business-musings-the-reactive-business-model/).

If something works, what's wrong in repeating it?

And KKR is notoriously critical of trade publishing. I take her advice with a huge pinch of salt.


I've worked in Production, Editorial and as a Web consultant for Marketing as publishers ranging from academic/scholarly (U.C. Press, University of Chicago Press, some tiny uni presses) to independent (W. W. Norton among others) to Big 5 publishers. I've been published by a big 5 publisher.

I've never seen anything at all that suggested that people who work in publishing don't first and foremost credit a book (and the author) for being good and thereby driving sales.

The whole point of trade and academic and scholarly publishing is to find, produce and sell good books.

Agreed. I've worked in publishing in various production, editorial, marketing and publicity roles, ranging from assistant to director-level, and my experience is similar to yours.


If people didn't use search engines to look for fiction, then why do people write book blogs? How do you think they get the traffic then? How do they manage to build a business out of ad revenue and Amazon affiliate clicks if they aren't getting viewers to their blogs? These are things your assumptions don't consider.

Type "best new fantasy book", "fantasy books 2015", "new fantasy books" and then use a tool to check the traffic on these sites and you'll see people do in fact use search engines to locate fiction. You can replace "fantasy" with any genre and you're going to find high search volume and traffic.

Let me tell you why Amazon is the world's #1 bookseller. Because millions of people use search engines to buy books.

As I've said already, people use search engines to find book blogs. And once they've found them, they read the reviews to find books they might like. Or they go to Amazon and browse what's available. But they don't use searches to find specific books, and then buy what they find (or if they do, this happens very, very rarely).

Amazon works well because it has extremely complex algorithms which link books to one another and produces the "if you liked this, you might also like this" suggestions they provide. It uses all sorts of things to come up with those suggestions: sales, genre, publisher, author, popularity, and browsing history all come into it. But not SEO. At least, that's not how it was explained to me when I last attended a conference about how this is all achieved.


I take a lot of offense at this article, which seems to associate those who employ SEO techniques to be subpar or dishonest.

In actuality an "intelligent human being" is someone who can use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to cheaply and easily build awareness of their book even while they are sleeping. It's clear Medievalist doesn't understand what SEO is or how to do it, which results in the disdain she clearly has for the practice. This ignorance should not spread and that article should be unstickied.

You're missing the point.

SEO can do wonderful things, and I don't think Medi denied that in her original article. But it doesn't sell books. Trust me: I've tried it out and nope, it doesn't work. It can bring visitors to websites, such as AW or book review blogs and so on: but it doesn't work for specific books because the browsing process, through which readers find books to read, doesn't mesh with it.

If you want to find a good review site which showcases great SF books, for example, SEO can help make that visible for you. And that's a good thing.

If you want to find a book which makes your heart sing, which has that indefinable sparkle about it which will stay with you for years after you've read it? SEO isn't going to help you. You might find that book on one of the review blogs you find thanks to SEO: but you are very unlikely to find the specific book solely because of SEO.


It's been a number of years since I came back to these forums. I abandoned them after getting tired of the bad advice that was constantly getting dispensed here, and I'm disappointed that it's gotten so bad that common sense is being ignored. This is perhaps the worse marketing article I have ever seen in my entire life and I am dumbfounded that authors are being directed to it.

As someone who has built a six-figure business using primarily SEO to generate customer leads, I can tell you this article is woefully wrong and that article should be removed because it is leading many self-published authors down a path of foolishness that will only ever waste their time. Like, if I had an employee who ever posted such a thing I would terminate them on the spot because it would demonstrate they have NO IDEA how to market a product and obviously are not competent at their job. That is how awful that article is.

It's a brilliant piece, and if you had even a basic understanding of how books are found by their readers, you'd realise that.

I don't doubt that you've built yourself a great business. But so have I, and my business requires me to sell books. I've done that, over and over again. I've had best-sellers, I've had medium sellers, and I've had poor sellers. This is a market I know. And I know that SEO does not work in the way you think it does when it comes to selling specific titles.

As I said earlier, it can and does work to attract people to specific websites. But it does not work when you want people to come in and buy specific titles.

And I do hope you never terminate anyone for giving what you consider poor marketing advice. That does seem somewhat extreme.


Medievalist, your advice that "good writing" is more important than marketing is wrong. It's not a matter of opinion; it is just factually incorrect.

You're wrong.


SEO and "good writing" are not even in the same category of thing as one another.



Writing a book is a manufacturing process. It is the creation of a product.
SEO is a marketing process. It is the promotion of a product.


The simple fact that there are barely comprehensible non-fiction books (because they were churned out using article spinning software) hitting best-seller spots on Amazon proves that "good writing" doesn't sell itself.

You're wrong again.


How is anyone supposed to discover a book if authors do not promote them? What is it you suggest in place of SEO?


Actually, Medi wrote an entire post explaining that.


Your suggestion that authors should simply write well and then send out review copies demonstrates you have no actual experience successfully promoting books as a self-published author who is new to the market and have gone through the ropes yourself.

If you think that's all Medi suggested in the article, I suggest you read it again.

When you've done that, please stop the insults. You're veering close to breaking AW's one rule.

And stop the assumptions, too. Check out who you're talking to. Check out her publication history, and her history of helping many of AW's members successfully promote their own books.


Listen to me; I sell books every_single_day and I only sell books every day because I SEOed the hell out of the books. My sales landing pages get 10,000+ views a month or more and this converts into regular sales of books.

Or you could listen to me: I sell books every single day too. Lots of books. Some are books I've written, some are books I've worked on in a publishing role, and some are books I've read and enjoyed. And all without SEO.

Roxxsmom
01-10-2016, 01:06 PM
Disclaimer:
<<<<< Not an industry professional but a lifelong, passionate reader of speculative fiction.

How I find new fiction authors to read:

--Recommendations from people I know have similar taste.
--Browsing the shelves in brick and mortar bookstores from time to time
--Book reviews or author interviews in SF or fantasy websites I follow or the blogs of authors I follow because I already like their work and know we're on the same page
--Books and stories people are talking about as possible Hugo candidates or that are nominated for those awards.
--Writers I "meet" and connect well with online in forums like AW or at writers workshops and decide to give something they've written or recommend a try.
--The SFWA site occasionally (I read a lot of fantasy and SF)
--Ads, reviews and bestseller lists in Locus
--Amazon and other online retailers' recommendations, though those are very hit or miss.

I've never used google to find fiction. To be honest, I wouldn't even know how to use search terms that would toss up a list of titles I'd be highly likely to want to read, because the things I look for are subtle--elements of world building, characterization, tone, voice, themes and so on that I may not even know I'm looking for until I see them. And thanks to the methods I mentioned above, I've got a teetering stack of books to read already (both on my physical bookshelves and loads of kindle and nook books on my ipad).

I'm sort of the opposite of Cassandra. My aspirations tend to be bigger than my actual reading time when it comes to buying books, and I'm probably less discriminating than I should be. But I agree that google hasn't been a resource I use for locating new fiction to read.

I could see how it might work if I were the kind of person who so fell in love with a particular series I'd look for books "very similar to [name]," but I don't. I learned back when I was still a teen that imitative work is rarely anything like as good as the work that inspired them, and after I've read a series into the ground, I'm ready for a change of pace anyway.

mccardey
01-10-2016, 01:42 PM
Again though, Medievalist wasn't suggesting SEO is never to be used. Well yeah sure - but I think we can all agree that Medi is the spawn of Satan. Ammirite? (OP I've got your back on this... :evil )

Alessandra Kelley
01-10-2016, 04:21 PM
I don't think I was ten years old before I had learned that no one saying "book similar to X" was ever to be relied upon unless I knew them and knew why they were recommending it.

If I knew them personally I could ask whether they were recommending another book for reasons I considered valid, like it had a girl hero who was not denigrated and actually got to do things, or invalid, like it was set on a moon base.

Strangers' book recommendations, I learned early, were no improvement on random chance for finding new books.

Perks
01-10-2016, 09:34 PM
I've never used google to find fiction. To be honest, I wouldn't even know how to use search terms that would toss up a list of titles I'd be highly likely to want to readThis - all the way - is why SEO as some sort of marketing anchor for fiction is a waste of time. (For fiction bloggers, it has some application for sure, but as has been stated, there's nothing there for promoting individual titles.)

The whole concept of SEO is fascinating and can be incredibly useful in the right arena. Book-selling just isn't the place for it. If it was, you can bet your buttocks that the big publishing houses would be all over it. They have the resources, and yet they don't bother with it. Is this an oversight? Is it a symptom of dinosaur dementia? No. As such, and as much as anyone would like it to be, SEO isn't a workaround to make up the disparity in marketing/publicity opportunity between trade publishing and smaller indie and self-publishing.

Every publishing model has its challenges for the individual authors, and in fact, books that come out of big houses have a lot of the same hurdles as books that come out via other routes - namely that a lot of care and effort has gone into a project that will not yield the hoped for results. It is wise and good for everyone to look at the changing communications landscape and brainstorm about what might be put to work for the movers and shakers. There's nothing wrong with trying things, but trying is only as good as the understanding of the clockworks of the goal - in this case why and how people buy the books they do.

As far as social media presence, I like to watch writers I admire and learn from them. Not a one of them focuses their online presence toward promoting their work. When it comes up at all, they mention new deals, cover art reveals, launches, event appearances, and milestones, and sometimes special sales deals. That's it. The majority of their posts, if they are the type who feels like interacting, are about things that interest them, things they find funny, things they find infuriating, and promoting other writers' work.

And they never, ever post their daily word count. :) I think that's best left in here, on a writers' board, where we understand what we're talking about. Normal people find it odd.

cornflake
01-10-2016, 09:48 PM
People do search for things like ' best fantasy novel 2015' or whatever. However, those people, if everyone I know is any barometer, aren't looking for some individual book's webpage touting itself. They're looking for a publication or blogger's list or recommendation.

Perks
01-10-2016, 09:53 PM
People do search for things like ' best fantasy novel 2015' or whatever. However, those people, if everyone I know is any barometer, aren't looking for some individual book's webpage touting itself. They're looking for a publication or blogger's list or recommendation.

Definitely, but if you tag your own book with "Best Fantasy Novel 2015" and it's only you and your mother who designates it as such, you're not just using SEO, you're being the titular SEO-dweeb. That's why the complaint in the OP is unfounded. Medi didn't say to never use SEO, only to know what it's for (not much, in most of our cases), what you're doing, and to do it honestly.

Latina Bunny
01-10-2016, 09:58 PM
People do search for things like ' best fantasy novel 2015' or whatever. However, those people, if everyone I know is any barometer, aren't looking for some individual book's webpage touting itself. They're looking for a publication or blogger's list or recommendation..

That's really the only time I would search for fiction in a general sense (and not something I already knew about). I also Google goodreads lists as well.

When I google books, I already have an idea of the book I want to look up because I've either heard about the books, was recommended books (from AW or people in general), or I've already seen the books in the bookstore and was curious about its content.

Now, nonfiction books are something that I could use search engines for, since I am not aware of famous specific titles to search for in a specific way.

cornflake
01-10-2016, 10:11 PM
Definitely, but if you tag your own book with "Best Fantasy Novel 2015" and it's only you and your mother who designates it as such, you're not just using SEO, you're being the titular SEO-dweeb. That's why the complaint in the OP is unfounded. Medi didn't say to never use SEO, only to know what it's for (not much, in most of our cases), what you're doing, and to do it honestly.

Sorry, wasn't clear I don't think, as yes. I search for 'best sci-fi novels 2015' I'm not clicking on anything but a NYT or PW or something's result. I'm sure as shit not clicking on the page of the person who just used the keywords for dweeby SEO and yeah, many of us online and not 10 years old can tell the difference. If someone can't and clicks, I doubt it produces much but the click.

Perks
01-10-2016, 10:24 PM
Sorry, wasn't clear I don't think, as yes. I search for 'best sci-fi novels 2015' I'm not clicking on anything but a NYT or PW or something's result. I'm sure as shit not clicking on the page of the person who just used the keywords for dweeby SEO and yeah, many of us online and not 10 years old can tell the difference. If someone can't and clicks, I doubt it produces much but the click.

Oh, of course! I knew what you meant. I was just wordily agreeing with you. :)

And this bit -


many of us online and not 10 years old can tell the difference. If someone can't and clicks, I doubt it produces much but the click.

is sort of the heart of the matter. That kind of SEO abuse not only won't get results, but it erodes confidence because it's inherently misleading. Plus, I think it has the pitfall of inviting comparison that the author might not be able to live up to. Someone upthread mentioned a Google search of "books like Harry Potter". That's a bold and risky comparison to invite. Unless the sole concern is sales numbers, the only thing worse than not being read, is being read and earning the derision of readers and reviewers in comparisons.

While no one was suggesting this as an SEO matter, here's an example of why I think it's important to be careful of the comparisons we invite. Twice now, my publisher wanted to compare my work with Alexander McCall Smith's. My editor thinks there's some similarity in our writing styles. I find this to be a lovely and flattering comparison, but have insisted that it be removed from the publicity material and jacket copy both times. Alexander McCall Smith is known for his fantastic, vivid destination mysteries. Botswana is practically its own character in the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. If people pick up my book and there are no giraffes in it, or even location-anchored descriptions (which there aren't) the comparison is inviting disappointment.

At it's too easy to disappoint readers anyway. We certainly don't need to be cobbling together new ones in SEO.

robjvargas
01-11-2016, 12:00 AM
It seems to me that the discussion comes down to the difference between "gaming" search engine algorithms, and creating content worthy of raking highly in search results. If I can fix my site and get it running again, I want my search rankings to exist as affirmation of those search algorithms (i.e., that my content actually matches what people were looking for) not as an artificial construct built to make a search algorithm think it's so.

I also don't believe that it's an either/or discussion. SEO tools can help us to understand what people are seeking. It's a form of market research, after all. There would be nothing unethical about tailoring our blogs/content to what people are looking for.

As others have already said, though, it should be about appealing to the readers, the end users. Not to the search algorithms.

VeryBigBeard
01-11-2016, 01:19 AM
I don't know if anyone here reads The Fiver, which is a "tea-timely" daily football email produced by The Guardian. It often arrives late or not at all and when it does arrive it always comes with its tongue firmly in cheek.

From time to time, bemoaning in the lede that nobody reads The Fiver anymore, it will keyword stuff as much pop culture celebrity crap as it can into the first three paragraphs to try and game the search engines (it's also published on the Guardian football site) before going on to talk about the travails of Watford v. Stoke, some obscure midfielder with one functioning leg, and a short fictional story about Bobby the groundskeeper secretly running the club via alchemy.

It is the single best use of SEO I have ever read.

Gilroy Cullen
01-11-2016, 02:07 AM
If the answer is "other people", then you need to re-evaluate your beliefs on this matter. And I assume you want to sell books to other people.


If it works for you, great. Happy for you. But Advice is just that. Something people can take, or leave, at their choice. Frankly, anyone who's pushy, I leave. I've done it with book sales as well as car sales. If I chose to make a purchase, it will be because that is my choice, not someone who worked the system. Again, my choice, my opinion.

Gilroy Cullen
01-11-2016, 02:16 AM
If you aren't constantly selling your book and you are a self-published author

AND Here we come to the meat and potatoes of the entire argument happening here. The biggest difficulty with any author who's primary focus is SALES is they lose customers.

The best places to shop (Costco, Wegmans, for good examples) put the customer relationship above the Sale. They give an environment worth revisiting. They work with the customer to discover the best product for their needs.

Some of the worst places to shop (Wal-Mart, I'm looking at you) place the Sale above the Customer Relationship. How many people do you hear that HATE shopping some place where the sales are always in your face, the only concern of the location is the bottom line.

Any author who is constantly harping "BUY MY BOOK" may get sales for their first release, but people remember their experience and will tell friends to NOT buy from said author. Just as they talk about not buying from stores that give them a bad experience.

VeryBigBeard
01-11-2016, 02:22 AM
While it's true that self-publishing means spending a not-insignificant amount of time as your own "publisher," therefore doing some sales, the best way to sell a book is to write another one.

If an author is "constantly" selling his or her book, it becomes very, very hard to write that next one.

Somehow I get the feeling that writing isn't very important to the OP, though, which strikes me as odd since it is the entire content of books. But to each his own. There are loads of books published like, say Trump's autobiography, that are not really about the writing but which are products because of the name on the cover.

Fiction, though? Write a good book and selling it to people who like to read becomes much easier.

Roxxsmom
01-11-2016, 03:57 AM
People do search for things like ' best fantasy novel 2015' or whatever. However, those people, if everyone I know is any barometer, aren't looking for some individual book's webpage touting itself. They're looking for a publication or blogger's list or recommendation.

This. And I have certain sites and publications I've come to trust more than others when it comes to these lists.

The kernel of truth with regards to marketing, of course, is that your books need to end up listed on these sites (or recommended by online retailers like Amazon) in order for potential readers to "find" them, and an enormous number of trade-published authors (let alone self-published) fall through the cracks for all kinds of reasons besides the quality of what they've written. Anything from the author's name, to the gender or race of the protagonist, to a cover that doesn't appeal, to a lackluster blurb, to the type of world or subgenre itself (reader preferences seem to come and go pretty quickly) can make a reader skim past a book on one of those lists too.

Discoverability is a huge thing, and in fact, there are plenty of very good books that never garner huge sales. I know, because some of my favorite authors are solid mid-listers or people who do a "slow burn" when it comes to sales. I remember how amazed I was when I started visiting writers sites like this one and learned how many other "fantasy fans" had never heard of many of my favorite authors and how many loved authors I'd never heard of.

It can be darned hard for a new someone published by a big-5 publisher to be discovered by readers these days, let alone someone who self publishes. So many books so little time. And by definition, they can't all be bestsellers. And I understand that the best strategies are a constantly moving target.

What isn't in short supply, however, are people who claim to have a magic bullet that will bring success to every self-published author. There's also no shortage of people seem to be burning with hate for trade publishing and use their posts about "marketing strategies" to take thinly veiled potshots at writers (and readers) who prefer it.

I can say from personal experience that if I follow someone "back" who claims they write SF and F, and they start spamming my twitter feed with book advertisements, I'll unfollow them very quickly. And I've never once purchased a book that I only heard about on twitter.

Filigree
01-11-2016, 05:53 AM
True story as illustration: I both love and hate an obscure M/M epic fantasy first published 16 years ago. I wrote a balanced, detailed review giving all my reasons and eventual conclusion of love and cautious admiration...and stuck it on my blog. Which maybe 20 people hit a day.

The reissued self-published version of that book came out almost as long ago. For almost a decade and a half it sold under 50 copies (estimates from BookScan and Novel Rank not perfect, but decent benchmarks.)

In the year and a half since my review, that book has sold over 300 copies. Including the Kindle reissue and the now rare trade paperback version. I can pretty much estimate that when someone is going to read my review, they will go to Amazon (or wherever) and buy that book, about 70% of the time. I'm happy to help out, but a bit wistful, too. SEO may be driving traffic to my site, but it's not actually selling the book. My passion is what drove my review.

If I were a small business (or big business) owner and one of my marketing team said 'Marketing is more important than manufacturing' I might consider firing them, as their strategy would be a longterm danger to my company's reputation.

BenPanced
01-11-2016, 07:04 AM
Frankly, I very rarely use a search engine to look up a book. If I can't find it on Barnes & Noble's site (because f**k Amazon), I'll look it up on the author's personal site or their Wikipedia page. I'll only turn to a search engine if I can't get the name of the book or the author correct. I can think of only three instances where I looked up titles on a search engine to see if I could locate a decent online used book seller that didn't have "Amazon" in its name.

Old Hack
01-11-2016, 11:17 AM
Any author who is constantly harping "BUY MY BOOK" may get sales for their first release, but people remember their experience and will tell friends to NOT buy from said author. Just as they talk about not buying from stores that give them a bad experience.

Authors who constantly self-promote on social media don't get sales, they get unfollowed. Authors who only connect with others on social media in order to sell their books don't get sales, they get unfollowed. Authors who don't engage in conversations, and who don't give as much as they take on social media, don't get sales, they get unfollowed.

If you focus on SEO rather than on strong content for your sites and good books, then you're doing the same sort of thing. People might arrive at your website but then they'll leave. Engage them, and they might stay.


It can be darned hard for a new someone published by a big-5 publisher to be discovered by readers these days, let alone someone who self publishes. So many books so little time. And by definition, they can't all be bestsellers.

This has always been true. But it's more obvious to people outside the business now we have the internet, I think.


SEO may be driving traffic to my site, but it's not actually selling the book. My passion is what drove my review.

Precisely.


If I were a small business (or big business) owner and one of my marketing team said 'Marketing is more important than manufacturing' I might consider firing them, as their strategy would be a longterm danger to my company's reputation.

Over the last decade and a half trade publishing has moved its focus away from editorial and towards marketing. I have worked in both camps and can see the benefits to both approaches: but it has changed the sorts of books you see on the shelves.

Filigree
01-11-2016, 05:25 PM
God, do I know it. I've watched the change as a reader since 1996. While I've been involved in marketing all that time, it was in a different field with inherent rules closer to what the OP appears to follow. I've only been closely watching commercial genre publishing since 2009.

I like some changes (push for diversity, broader range of tropes, more direct contact with readers), but loathe others (too short shelf life for print books, the related tendency to drop contracts because of Wall-Street style return-on-investment worries. I am thrilled beyond words that good self-publishing is becoming available, because that means my favorite authors' backlists might not languish in obscurity.

I also think that many famous self-publishing gurus are being at least a bit deceptive to their more naive followers, because a lot of the former first benefited from commercial publishers' marketing.

andiwrite
01-13-2016, 07:31 AM
Of course they don't want authors to learn how to self-promote. If authors knew how to sell their own books, they'd be out of a job.

Um. This is not true. Many, if not all, publishers expect their writers to self-promote these days.


Step 1. Make a list of every book that you think your book is similar to.

This advice always frustrates me. I wrote my book because I wanted to read something like it and couldn't find anything. I've been looking for books like mine for years now, and still haven't found one. I'm sure they exist, but how the heck would you find one?


And Google's algorithms and human search raters will flag your post.

Content, genuine content, not keyword stuffed crap, will rise higher and will stay high.

Write for readers, not algorithms.

Write to engage; readers will review and tweet and Facebook and email other readers about your post/book.

People will read and buy your book. It's what readers do.

And write a new book; new books sell your backlist. A new book is just about the best possible publicity and marketing for your previous books.

This is true. I do SEO content writing for my day job. The focus has completely switched from keywords onto quality content in the last couple of years. A lot of clients aren't even requesting keywords any longer.


While it's true that self-publishing means spending a not-insignificant amount of time as your own "publisher," therefore doing some sales, the best way to sell a book is to write another one.

If an author is "constantly" selling his or her book, it becomes very, very hard to write that next one.

Yep, I've switched most of my focus onto writing future books now. I still blog and post on social media, but I'm not stressing myself with constant marketing any longer.

tiddlywinks
01-13-2016, 11:24 AM
I have to say, this thread was an interesting read, but I did find the OP to be an unwarranted attack on what is a good starting point for writers to think about in terms of promoting their book's online presence and promotion. Having read the entire discussion, a few observations came to mind:

1. SEO is not just about keywords anymore. As VeryBigBeard, andiwrites, medievalist herself and others have pointed out, Google and others reward quality content. Not just keywords (ex-nay on that stuffing), not on quantity (great way to get yourself flagged as spam), but thoughtful, authentic content. If you're going to rank for a particular key phrase, it's not just because you were savvy enough to use it in your metadata, or because you wrote 'an article' on it and linked it to high heaven. And medievalist hit it: Google is ALWAYS refining its algorithm. So focus on writing quality content. Have I stuffed quality in here enough times?

2. Marketing is not more important than the product, ESPECIALLY if it's a book. A cruddy book is still a cruddy book (and a cruddy business solution is still a cruddy business solution and no amount of marketing is going to hide that once people start peering under the proverbial hood).

Whether you're writing fiction or non-fiction, you're not just marketing your book, you're marketing yourself, too (hello, author platform). Why do I follow writers on social media? Why do I peruse their websites and blogs? Is it because I'm going to go click on the "buy my next book!" link? Mmm, yeah, no. I like their writing and now I want to learn more about them, what makes them tick. Oh, and maybe get an update on when that next blasted installment in a series is coming out while I sit on pins and needles!

3. Genuine engagements create more meaningful, lasting impact. One of the trends in digital marketing right now is the customer experience - now, you might be scratching your head going "yeah, well, I have readers, not customers." Absolutely. But I think what makes medievalist's reference post still relevant, and that may be lost in the OP's heavy focus on SEO sales tactics, is that genuine experience you build online in your interactions with your reader (and potential reader) community - i.e. your customers.

Verybigbeard said it succinctly (albeit in reference to the OP):


Know thy audience. Know thyself.

IMHO, if people are coming upon you via searches, it's because they're seeking you out to learn more about you, the author, because they liked your writing; a friend mentioned your book; they saw one of your blog posts; funny tweets; you came up on goodreads, etc.

Is SEO important to think about? Sure. Is it the only thing that's important in your marketing campaign, whether you're self pubbed or trad pub or hoping-to-be-pubbed? Heck no. Is marketing more important than your book? :roll: Um, no.

If you're not sure where you should spend your time after this discussion? Write the next book. :)

Salt opinions to taste.

Garnished with final random get-off-my-lawn rant about spammy twitter feeds: if I have to mute 'em, I'm not followin' 'em (Amen to Old Hack).

Filigree
01-13-2016, 06:27 PM
That's what I got out of the thread. Quality content matters and lasts longer than ephemeral keywords. Be skeptical of those who say otherwise, because they may be trying to sell bridges stuffed with keywords.

Shadowflame
01-15-2016, 12:35 AM
IMHO every author should learn the basics of promotion.

Gone are the days when an author can sit back and books sell themselves. (If that ever happened at all) Social media gives every author a chance to connect to a new reader. It takes a little bit of time, but it's so worth it.

The most important advice I give newish authors is be yourself! Post about your kids, your work, kittens and puppies crafts or other things that interest you. When you laugh, others laugh. When you cry they do too. Be HUMAN! It's the strongest connection you have to an audience.

Post a promotion at most 1 or two times a day if you are very active on social media. If you aren't, then maybe once for every 5-10 normal posts.

Respond to those who take a moment to post a comment. (Just beware of trolls) It really makes a difference.

Go to book signings, sign up for pannels, do readings at your local schools, be public on occasion. People who see you in person will look up your work and follow you if you interact with them. They might not buy a book today, but they will keep you in mind when you take a moment of a busy day and smile, say hi and have a brief conversation.

Jamesaritchie
01-15-2016, 07:19 PM
IMHO every author should learn the basics of promotion.

Gone are the days when an author can sit back and books sell themselves. (If that ever happened at all) Social media gives every author a chance to connect to a new reader. It takes a little bit of time, but it's so worth it.

.


That's simply not true. It's a complete myth that books sell because the writer promotes them. I know self-published writers have to promote, but commercial writers imply don't have to do so in order to sell books. Readers buy books. They don't buy writers. Readers don't care in the least about writers until after the writer has a book the readers love, and talk about to all their friends.

Take a look at the bestseller list, find all the first novels that have appeared there, which is a bunch, and tell me how many of these writers you even heard of until after their first book was on the list. Publishers promote books. They simply do. Reviewers and critics also promote books, if the books are any good. What the writer does really means nothing until after the books is selling well enough to make readers want to know whoever write it.

Books sell because they're good, because readers can't stop talking about them, and tell all their friends, who tell all their friends, etc. All promotion does is let a reasonable number of readers know the books exists. It doesn't take many readers to start an avalanche. The promotion every commercial publisher does lets this happen, even if the writer does nothing.

There's a reason publishers seldom pour money into a book until after it shows it has legs. Until this point, there's no reason at all to believe any kind of promotion will help and, in fact, all the promotion in the world won't help, unless a lot of readers love the book. When the time comes to put the writer on the road, to give the writer true promotion money, the book is already a success. Ignore this when a publisher pulls a stunt like giving a first time writer a two million dollar advance, but for the vast, vast majority of novels, it's true.

As I said, all you should have to do is take a look at first novels that are bestsellers to dispel the writer as promoter theory. I know a lot of writers who spend far, far more time promoting a book than they spend writing new books. None of them are making any money. Most of them are losing a lot of money because they're spending it on promotion, rather than earning it by writing more books.

Shadowflame
01-15-2016, 09:15 PM
That's simply not true. It's a complete myth that books sell because the writer promotes them. I know self-published writers have to promote, but commercial writers imply don't have to do so in order to sell books. Readers buy books. They don't buy writers. Readers don't care in the least about writers until after the writer has a book the readers love, and talk about to all their friends.

I really disagree with this. Yes readers buy books. Yes they do listen to friends on what books is good and ratings on reviews. But, that isn't always the case. Commercial authors- big or small press and self publishers- should always be willing to promote their work. They may not have to work so hard if they have a big house behind them, but they have to be out there. If you aren't you will fade away even if you have a best seller.

Now, I don't know as much about the BIG publishers but I know small press has to work their tails off with promotions. A lot of it is simple stuff such as a weekly reminder, or a blog post once a month about writing processes. But some of it really is difficult. There's review sites, interviews, podcasts, etc that can help an author reach new readers. Not every publisher has the ability or time to do all of this. Therefore, a lot of it gets tossed back over to the author. Some are lucky enough to hire a promoter but most do the best they can with what time and effort they can put in.



Take a look at the bestseller list, find all the first novels that have appeared there, which is a bunch, and tell me how many of these writers you even heard of until after their first book was on the list. Publishers promote books. They simply do. Reviewers and critics also promote books, if the books are any good. What the writer does really means nothing until after the books is selling well enough to make readers want to know whoever write it.

And how many authors fade away after that best seller?

A sustained writing career involves active participation. Even big publishers do not have the ability to continuously promote an author for months or a year after a book comes out. They have too many authors and books and it get too complicated to keep track of.

Big publishers rely on the author to do their part in promotion. That includes BEFORE the book comes out not just after. Promotion includes interviews, contacting reviewers, getting on podcasts, and doing readings and signings. If an author isn't doing at least some of this to garner attention, the book will not do as well.

For instance: Publisher X has 3 new authors who are launching series next month.
Author 1 has had a little success in self publishing and has a total of 14 books out but has very little social media presence and isn't interested in doing extra promotion.
Author 2 has had several short story sales. Posts once a month on blogs, sometimes participated in social media, and has just started going to conventions. Willing to do some promotion but not a lot.
Author 3 is a new author. No real background except a few short story sales. Has a big social media presence, is excited and willing to promote the book, looks for promotion sites on their own. Participated in conventions and has scheduled some readings and book signings without prompting from the publisher.

If they are all writing the same genre (say these are all mid-list authors), which one will do better?

In my experience, Author 3, even though they don't have much experience. The difference is, that author is willing to connect with people. Readers may be the ones to buy books, but the author is the one who sells them on that buy. Author 3 is willing to be out facing the public, convincing them that this is a good book.


Books sell because they're good, because readers can't stop talking about them, and tell all their friends, who tell all their friends, etc. All promotion does is let a reasonable number of readers know the books exists. It doesn't take many readers to start an avalanche. The promotion every commercial publisher does lets this happen, even if the writer does nothing.

Being a "good" book doesn't make it a best seller. How many classics were total flops when they first came out? ;) How many of those best sellers were rejected before they found a publisher?

The word "good" is too subjective. I might think a book is good, but not the person standing next to me. A good promotion plan selects venues where the most people who enjoy that genre stop in at. If you have a horror book, you probably aren't going to promote it at a historical romance site (although it could happen if there's a lot of crossover.) Readers will decide if that's a good fit for them.

Truthfully much of the commercial promotion is very generic. They submit to certain sites for reviews; they take out advertisements in certain venues. There's lots of gaps. And it's up to the author to fill those in.


There's a reason publishers seldom pour money into a book until after it shows it has legs. Until this point, there's no reason at all to believe any kind of promotion will help and, in fact, all the promotion in the world won't help, unless a lot of readers love the book. When the time comes to put the writer on the road, to give the writer true promotion money, the book is already a success. Ignore this when a publisher pulls a stunt like giving a first time writer a two million dollar advance, but for the vast, vast majority of novels, it's true.

So above you are saying a publisher does all the promotion and the author can sit back and write the next book? But now, you say that a publisher doesn't pour money into a book until it can stand on it's own? ;)

Well if scenario #2 is true, who's doing the promotions? The author or someone the author has hired to promote the book. I completely disagree that no kind of promotion will help at all. Any type of promotion helps. Making Facebook posts, talking about pre-orders, scheduling an online/virtual/booklaunch party, being on panels at conventions, writing blog posts ALL help sales. The more an author is talking up their book (promotion) the more word will spread and the better chances they will have sales.

Very few publishers schedule book tours anymore. If an author wants to do them, they usually have to do that themselves. Authors pay for these with the money they earn. I'm not aware of any mid-list or even best-selling (unless it's a mega superstar) author (in the speculative fiction field) who are on tour on the dime of the publisher. But again I could be wrong.


As I said, all you should have to do is take a look at first novels that are bestsellers to dispel the writer as promoter theory. I know a lot of writers who spend far, far more time promoting a book than they spend writing new books. None of them are making any money. Most of them are losing a lot of money because they're spending it on promotion, rather than earning it by writing more books.

Well every bestselling author I know of promotes their books. They do interviews, seek out review sites, go to conventions, readings and signings. I don't know if the publishers set this all up but I doubt it.

There's a big myth as to how much promotion someone should be doing. Truthfully, most of it is easy stuff that can be taken care of in an hour a day. (FB/Twitter/forums and blog) Other stuff, such as finding reviewers, podcasts, etc do take more time for research.(2 or so hours weekly) Taking a day or weekend away from writing to go to a convention can be priceless. But most of the time 10 hours a week covers everything. Plenty of time for writing. And a lot of the easy stuff doesn't cost anything.

But if you want to have a sustained career, an author has to have some sort of public presence for promotion. Publishers cannot be relied upon to do the work. Smaller publishers can't always do this. Even large publishers won't keep a sustained promotional push for long. Therefore, it really is up to the author to either promote themselves or to hire someone to promote them.

JHFC
01-15-2016, 09:25 PM
In regards to the "best seller" comment, I think JAR is talking about steadily selling books. That's what he has experience in. No one can make themselves Stephen King. Sorry, it isn't possible. It is possible to become Stephen King or JK Rowling or Anne Rice or whoever, but not through your own talent or effort. You obviously have to have talent, but the rest of it is just the magic randomness of life.

So, I think JAR gives good advice on how to be a writer and be successful as a writer, because that's the only thing that *you* can do.

Shadowflame
01-15-2016, 10:42 PM
In regards to the "best seller" comment, I think JAR is talking about steadily selling books. That's what he has experience in. No one can make themselves Stephen King. Sorry, it isn't possible. It is possible to become Stephen King or JK Rowling or Anne Rice or whoever, but not through your own talent or effort. You obviously have to have talent, but the rest of it is just the magic randomness of life.

So, I think JAR gives good advice on how to be a writer and be successful as a writer, because that's the only thing that *you* can do.

I understand the "best seller" comment. However, before SK and JK Rowling became a big name, they were out there doing promotions. Book signings, interviews, talking to review sites, and I bet at least SOME of it was done outside of the publisher. Part of their success and continued success is because they are public figures in the literary world.

I don't think that an author's only responsibility is to write. Just like knowing what your contract means, keeping track of royalties/payments, promotion is just another skill a successful writer needs to be aware of.

Does this mean you need to be a guru? No, but it does mean that a basic understanding and a little effort can help your career tremendously. Is it time consuming? Yes at times. But in the long run, an author will be so much better off doing at least a small bit of promotion than if they do none at all.

AW Admin
01-15-2016, 11:11 PM
Well every bestselling author I know of promotes their books. They do interviews, seek out review sites, go to conventions, readings and signings. I don't know if the publishers set this all up but I doubt it.

Most of it is in fact coordinated by agents and publishers; generally a book has a team behind it—including an assigned publicist.

Each ARC I receive to review has collateral material, including a sales sheet, and the publicist to contact with questions, the review link/publication and a way to arrange interviews, etc.


But if you want to have a sustained career, an author has to have some sort of public presence for promotion. Publishers cannot be relied upon to do the work. Smaller publishers can't always do this. Even large publishers won't keep a sustained promotional push for long. Therefore, it really is up to the author to either promote themselves or to hire someone to promote them.

Someone needs to explain this to Thomas Pynchon.

In other words, no, you really don't have to do a whole lot if you're not self-published; you need to make it easy to find you and what you've written; even a free account on about.me is enough, if you're an author with a trade publisher.

Sure, beyond the website, a presence on Twitter can be a plus; so can other social media outlets.

Most authors would rather write than promote. And if a writer has to choose between writing time and PR time, writing time should generally win.

Much of the advice given to authors about promotion, especially to self-published authors, is really bad. The advice to constantly shill on Twitter, to make forum posts about your book on a regular basis, much of it ends up making the author someone to avoid.

In fact the hands-down best way to promote your books is to write, sell, and publish a new book; new books sell the backlist.

neandermagnon
01-16-2016, 12:42 AM
It's true that good writing promotes itself. I've put no effort into promoting my blog, definitely no SEO, and still get lots of traffic from search engines. That happened all by itself. It's still getting lots of traffic even though I haven't written any new content for months. (Been meaning to but working on my novel instead.)

Shadowflame
01-16-2016, 12:49 AM
:flag::)

Super_Duper
01-16-2016, 01:56 AM
metadata metadata metadata

Filigree
01-16-2016, 09:24 AM
And please, oh fellow authors, be really careful about how much you share online in the name of 'opening up' to your fans. Most of them really just want you to keep writing books.

Don't post pictures of your kids, pets, neighborhood, etc. Think about what can be used to stalk you, before you clutter up your FB page or whatever. Ask yourself if that photo or revealing sentence is absolutely necessary in your conversation with your fans. It only takes one stalker, jealous ex, or snubbed fellow writer to really ruin your day.

AW Admin
01-16-2016, 09:40 AM
metadata metadata metadata

One of the best kinds of metadata, that is data about data, or that describes data, for writers is to use the cite tag for the titles of books (http://www.w3schools.com/tags/tag_cite.asp) and other long works (films, plays, television series titles).

The cite tag usually displays the title in italics (this part depends on the CSS of the website), but more importantly, it tells search engines that this is the title of a work, and search engines pay attention to that in terms of how your page is ranked and indexed.

AW Admin
01-16-2016, 09:44 AM
And please, oh fellow authors, be really careful about how much you share online in the name of 'opening up' to your fans. Most of them really just want you to keep writing books.

Don't post pictures of your kids, pets, neighborhood, etc. Think about what can be used to stalk you, before you clutter up your FB page or whatever.

One of the things I suggest authors do, early on, is separate the public (their role as an author/writer) from the private (their personal life and family).

It's usually a good idea to have a separate email address for author stuff from the private, not public and not generally shared email address used by personal friends and family members.

Also, if the writer plans on having an email based newsletter they are required in many countries (including the U.S. and Canada) to have a publicly accessible, visible postal address associated with the newsletter/email list, as well as a clear and functioning method for unsubscribing from the email list. It's a good idea to have a rented box /mail drop at a postal service company or post office. And if the expense of renting one is more than you want to spend, then perhaps a newsletter isn't really a viable option for you; perhaps you might be better off to postpone it.

It goes without saying that such mailing lists should be opt-in, that is, you don't collect email addresses yourself and send your newsletter to people who haven't specifically requested to receive it.