Show Up on Major Sites
by Linda Carlson
How visible are your books online? As discussed in “AdWords and Other Marketing Opportunities That Search Engines Offer” (October 2008), an online presence is—or is becoming—a key component of most publishers’ marketing programs. And surprisingly, promoting your books via major book-related sites can require only your time and a little savvy.
Amazon.com, which practically invented the term online retailer, is now striving to be a social networker too, with a Web page where you can add your profile; with thousands of “communities” such as Baking, Babies, Business, The 1980s, and Historical Romances; and with forums such as Gift Ideas.
One starting point is Help>Amazon.com Site Features>Your Community. The day I checked Gift Ideas for children’s books, there were 583 “discussions” (each of which could be several posts), and several posts were from authors promoting their books. The Business forum had 13 responses to the question, “What’s your favorite business audiobook?” As long as you’re posting from an email address that’s associated with an Amazon.com account (in other words, an account from which you’ve placed an order), you can post to as many of these forums as you like. The name on your Amazon.com account is what will show with your comment.
The Help section will also lead you to So You’d Like to . . . Guides, which provides another opportunity for exposure. As Amazon.com describes this section, “So You’d Like to . . . guides are a way for you to help other customers find all the items and information they might need. . . . Maybe there is an indispensable set of reference materials that you’d recommend to a new college freshman wishing to study literature. Maybe there are several items you think are necessary for the perfect barbecue.” And all of these items don’t have to be available through Amazon.
How else can you create visibility for your company, your authors, or your books at Amazon?
Review other people’s books. Again, this requires having an account, and the name associated with the account is what will show.
Upload media reviews of the books you have written and/or published, as well as information about the author and publisher, the table of contents, and as much text as one chapter. Use the Books Content Update form at amazon.com/gp/content-form, and input the ISBN and publisher contact information. If you’re an Advantage customer, you’ll use the Advantage update form.
Use your amazon.com/connect account (see amazon.com/gp/arms/role) to create a blog, post author information, and—this is important—post corrections for Amazon.com’s descriptions of your books. With amazon.com/connect you can also comment on the Amazon.com blogs that authors have created. For example, you could ask each of your authors to comment on your blog posts or those of other authors you publish.
Get friends, colleagues, and customers to review your books. Robert Hall at Boston’s Micron Press reports, “We’re contacting subject-relevant forums and asking if they will let us put up a thread about our book, and offer free review copies to their members in return for a review on the forum and also on Amazon.”
List the authors of your books that are being sold as new on Amazon.com using the AmazonConnect Directory (amazon.com/gp/arms/directory/ref=cm_arms_faq_dir). The listings link to the authors’ blogs (which you can create for them as static profiles if the authors aren’t interested in blogging).
Create an Amapedia for your product, or comment on other companies’ products. That’s what Kareen Aboujawde at Rowhouse Publishing in New York City has done for the company’s Bankable Business Plans and Bankable Business Plans for Entrepreneurial Ventures, both by Edward G. Rogoff. Still in beta form when I checked it, the site had very few existing product reviews.
A long list, isn’t it? But read it again: not one of these options requires anything more than an Amazon.com account. Of course, this retailer didn’t get to be as big as its geographic namesake without offering us opportunities to pay for promotion.
For details on advertising on the Home, Search, Product Detail, or Order Confirmation pages, see Advertise with Us, which you’ll find at the bottom of most pages, under Business Programs.
A paid promotion that allows you to ride the coattails of another book is Buy X, Get Y. Click your way to Paid Placements, at amazon.com/gp/feature.html?docId=1632801, and you’ll find the details on what Amazon calls a merchandising opportunity. There are two BXGY programs. One is an automated pairing made by Amazon. It can be overridden by a pairing you pay for, if you determine that the market for your book is exactly the same as that for a top-selling book. With a paid BXGY, you pay to have your book advertised on the bestseller’s page; you provide an additional 5 percent discount to the customer, and you receive a direct link to your title’s page from the bestseller’s page. There are also some limits on the program: it’s designed for small vendors (defined as those with less than $1 million in annual Amazon.com retail sales), and your request for a pairing must be reviewed by Amazon.com and possibly by the other publisher.
Sound like something you’d like to try? One IBPA member cautions that it’s difficult to select which books similar to yours will sell well during the period you’re contracting for, especially because you must apply for BXGY at least a month in advance.
At Other Major Booksellers’ Sites
Other major online retailers offer significantly fewer opportunities for publishers.
The only one mentioned on Barnes & Noble’s site relates to third-party book reviews. To get them added to bn.com, send the book’s ISBN and a fair-use excerpt of the review you want entered to email@example.com. In your email, you must indicate where the review appeared. All submissions are subject to verification.
Books-A-Million, Inc., the chain and online retailer based in Birmingham, AL, uses the data provided by Ingram and Baker & Taylor and the reviews published in Publishers Weekly and BookPage. Publishers’ only option for submitting reviews from other publications is using the customer review option on each book page, says Craig Hansen, president of Booksamillion.com. He suggests introducing a review with a comment like, “Here’s what the South Central History Journal had to say about this book:”
One major independent, Tattered Cover, relies on information from Ingram, says Neil Strandberg, operations manager, adding that the store can submit additional copy to Ingram to appear on a title page. “We’ve done this on occasion,” he says, “mostly for local, self-published authors who are unknown to Ingram. These are labor-intensive one-offs, and I hesitate to create an expectation that publishers can submit copy to us. We simply don’t have the capacity.”
Neither Borders nor Powell’s provided any information.
At Library Sites
An online presence on library and bibliophile sites is an important part of your Internet promotion. One site, which includes information from more than 69,000 libraries around the world, also provides information you can use in market research and promotional strategies.
That site is WorldCat (worldcat.org), run by the Dublin, OH–based Online Computer Library Service, a nonprofit that describes itself as “furthering access to the world’s information and reducing information costs.” You may see its URL most often on “Find this book in a library” icons on Web pages.
Some library Web sites also include “Which libraries have this book?” One click and you’re taken to a WorldCat page that’s bannered, “Find items in libraries near you, 1.2 billion items available here.” Type in your title, select the edition you’re interested in, and you’ll see how many of those 69,000 libraries own copies. Type in a location or ZIP code, and you’ll see which libraries in the area have the book. Intended for library patrons and staff who are requesting interlibrary loans, this is valuable information if you’re trying to arrange library appearances for an author in a certain geographic area.
If you want to pitch a particular title to libraries, compare which libraries have it to which don’t—and contact the acquisitions staff in the second group. (And if you’re researching potential competition for a possible new book, a few minutes at WorldCat will show you how many similar titles exist, when they were published, and whether libraries use them.)
To notify WorldCat about your books, follow the instructions at oclc.org/partnerships/material/default.htm, which explain how publishers can get their new-title information sent directly to libraries. Atworldcat.org/identities, you can also see what publications are credited to your authors. Be on the lookout for errors, though. I discovered that WorldCat lists 73 publications under my name (several dozen more than the actual count).
A similar Web site, the San Francisco-based Open Library (openlibrary.org/about), describes its goal as creating a Web page for every book ever published. Currently, it claims that about 20 million records are available online through the efforts of the nonprofit Internet Archive (archive.org/index.php), which is funded in part by the California State Library. Open Library does not sell books, but it does provide links to retailers on its pages.
Linda Carlson (lindacarlson.com) writes from Seattle, where she tries to ensure that her clients are visible online.
What Wikipedia Can Do for You
Publishers can use Wikipedia (wikipedia.org) in many ways. Start by making sure that the topics of your books are listed, and that the listings are accurate.
Because Wikipedia is written collaboratively by volunteers, almost anyone can contribute to it, and, as the site points out, most of the articles can be edited . . . simply by clicking the Edit This Page link.
Disputed information is subject to removal. When you enter a term or name in Wikipedia’s search box, be sure you select Search rather than Go. Go will show only pages about the topic; Search will show every Wikipedia listing that mentions the topic, even if that’s only in the source list (which is where you might like your titles to be).
Why do you want your books to be in Wikipedia, either as a topic or as a cited resource? Because today it is one of the largest reference Web sites, attracting at least 684 million visitors a year. It is one of the 10 most popular sites worldwide, right up there with Yahoo, Google, YouTube, Facebook, MSN, and MySpace.
Besides checking for the topics of your books, check for topics that are at least briefly mentioned in your books. You may be able to add information to the text, and thus add your book title to the list of resources.
Another possibility: add one of your titles to the Further Reading section. It’s harder to get biographies of authors and descriptions of publishers listed, but it’s worth trying.
When I typed in “Publishers Marketing Association,” IBPA’s earlier name, 14 pages were listed, most for books that had received Benjamin Franklin awards.