Thursday, February 20, 2014

Do We Major in Minors?

I was at a business seminar several years ago. There was a time management consultant speaking to the group. And he put forth the 80/20 rule. He said that in most businesses 80 percent of the time is spent producing 20 percent of the income. Meanwhile 20 percent of the work produced 80 percent of the.

There's been a lot of research about the 80/20 rule over the years and have found that it is true in many different types of organizations and activities. I would say that a similar situation exists among writers. However, I would go so far to say it's more like a 90/10 rule.

Let me ask you a silly question: generally speaking, where do people go when they want to buy a book for their Kindle? Do they check out social media sites? Do they go to a blog? Do they check twitter? Do they look through a bunch of bookmarks, brochures, and refrigerator magnets?

This is not a trick question. When people want to buy a book for their Kindle, they go to the website. So, why do authors spend hundreds of hours of month writing blogs, updating author pages on Facebook, Tweeting and pinning? Well, we had been told that that's what we need to do. Of course, none of those things are bad. They can produce some sales. However, they are not going to produce the bulk of your sales. Most of the books you sell will be sold by people who were looking for a similar type of book in the Kindle (or Nook or iBooks) website.

Yet, how much time do we actually spend per month trying to attract our share of the 75 million people who visit every 30 days? I would say that most writers spend very little time there.

This is a major mistake. If only one-tenth of one percent of the people visiting Amazon are looking  for a book in your category, that's 75,000 people. And not just any people. These are people who have their credit cards handy in an attitude to buy a book. Even if it is one-tenth of that number. That's still 7500. Few of us have social media networks with 7500 people interested in buy a book at the time they see our posts.

Unfortunately, in recent months I've allowed myself to get seduced into spending more of my marketing time away from Amazon than within the Kindle ecosystem.

This week, I went back to several of my books that I rushed through the process with and took more time identifying the most popular keywords, rewriting the descriptions embedding those key words at strategic points, adding book details and book extras, checking the categorization of the books and the keywords I listed when I originally uploaded the book. I reworked the whole sales page for each book. Within 24 hours I saw a jump in sales for those books.

I'm not going to kid you. It takes time. You have to write for the human being reading the blurbs, but also for the machine indexing them. Most people write their book description like they would a jacket cover. Certainly, it serves that function IF the person finds the book. However, when located way down in the search engine listings, they are not going to find your book in order to read your great description. The first job of that description is to help the search engine find the book. The second is to get people to read the sample and eventually buy the book. 

You also have to spend some time determining what are the best keywords/key phrases to use. It is beyond the scope of this article to go into detail about how to determine this, but try typing in a possible keyword into the Amazon search box in the Kindle category and see what drops down. Those are all potential key phrases. Which ones are near the top that best describe your book? Repeat this process, but add the letter a after the category. For instance, fantasy a. See what drops down. Repeat for each letter of the alphabet.

Switch over the Author Center on Amazon and add the book details like editorial reviews, comments from the author and an author bio tailored to this book all integrating some of your keywords.

Then click on the link to add book extras from Shelfari. You can enter a TOC, quotes, cast of characters, one line premises and other items which can be accessed from your Amazon Sales Page.

This takes time. However, not any more time than writing a blog entry or posting several times to your author page each day. And, it's the sort of thing you only do once in a while. And, unlike those other activities you're not speaking to prospects. You're speaking to customers.


  1. Terri, you just gave me a "Duh!" moment. This idea makes so much sense, I'm amazed I didn't think of it. I know all about keywords and search engines, but I've been holding off on updating my book's blurb until I get the second book done. Why? I don't know. Maybe it's that time factor and how hard it is to write a blurb to begin with. But I should probably take some of that blogging or Twitter time and work on the blurb instead. (I did change out a keyword this week. Do I get points for that?)

  2. Yes, it is one of those Duh moments. I do have a book about how to use the Amazon tools and finding key words It's called Let Amazon Sell Your Book for You. It's at I'm also going to be offering an email class in March on the subject.