Two Ways to Influence Your Rankings on Amazon

If you self-publish, there are two ways to influence your rankings on Amazon that I have learned from adapting and experimenting on the platform.  Although these tactics have been available in one form or other for a while now, they are still a mystery for many self-published authors who upload their books directly to Amazon.   Here I will address each method in order of importance.

1. Kindle Direct

I love Kindle Direct because it satisfies the practice of giving to get something in marketing.  When you publish your book directly on Amazon and sign up for Kindle Direct,  you are giving Amazon the right to sell your ebook exclusively for a period of 90 days.  This means  you are not publishing your ebook on any other platform until the 90 days are over.  In exchange you get access to a very valuable tool–a Kindle promotion.

A Kindle promotion is either a free ebook giveaway or a countdown deal.  If you look on your “marketing” tab in your KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) account you can read the descriptions of both.  I like to do the free ebook because it generates more downloads–“free is free” after all.  By signing up you are now part of an Amazon promotion that is optimized based on an algorithm.  You didn’t have to learn it or guess it or pray for it, it is just there because Amazon sees some value in having exclusive access to your book for three months.

Your deal will help generate awareness, rankings, and reviews.  Rankings are based on sales numbers, rate of sales, and page visits.  So when more people click through to your deal they are counted toward your bestsellers number.  Also, in my experience, people who receive free copies of books often rate and/or review them.  You don’t even have to ask!  The rate of return of reviews is based on the amount of downloads you get.  If 100 people take advantage of the promotion, you could get between 5 – 10 reviews, which is a 5 – 10% rate of return.  Not bad for clicking a few boxes.

2. Amazon Categories

The second way to influence your rankings on Amazon is to take advantage of selecting as many categories as you can, at a granular level.  This year Amazon changed its category policies, which has made some people upset.  You can check out this Reddit link to read arguments for and against the new rules. I have a more favorable view because the new system allows you to apply some powerful marketing to themes in your book.

For example if your book is a thriller you can drill down to “psychological thriller”, “sci fi thriller”, and “techno thriller”, among others.  We had a client with a “techno thriller” book that ranked in the Amazon bestsellers top ten.  You are allowed three category listings per book page and some classifications allow you to enter two subcategories.  There are people who have expressed concern because Amazon made changes to their books’ category listings without getting approval.  In the fineprint your will find that this is permissible.  To reduce the chances of this happening, do your best to be creative but stick to topics that truly represent what is in between the covers.  If you want to play with more ideas, use them as keywords.  Just remember that what is cool or witty to you may not be for your readers.  Always think about what your readers want.

My recommendation would be to take advantage of both of these tools.  Pick your categories carefully (and your keywords) and when you are ready, launch your Kindle Select promotion.  If you do and you want to share your experience, please email us at info@clairemckinneypr.com.  For other information about Amazon, check out our most recent post about Amazon’s ordering policy.

Amazon’s Order Policy Will Affect Indie Authors and Publishers

 

TikTok & Book Promotion

If you aren’t using it, you’ve heard of it. However, you might not know how to use it, or what it really is. Today we will be discussing the underdog tool in your promotional belt, TikTok, and how to use it for book promotion.

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a window to the latest pop culture trends among Generation Z. Gen Z (any individual born roughly between 1997-2012) dominates TikTok’s user base; the same generation also happens to be the next large target group of potential consumers. TikTok was created by the Beijing news-media tech company ByteDance. Often described as a combination of both Snapchat and Instagram, TikTok is a social app for short videos between 15 seconds and 10 minutes. The app has over one billion monthly active users, meeting or exceeding its competitors (Hootsuite). Their net user and download numbers only continue to climb. Needless to say, a large audience is there for the taking – particularly ripe for YA authors.

How do I use TikTok?

TikTok can be used via mobile device or desktop, however most creators recommend the use of the mobile version for the best experience. You will need to download via smartphone or tablet. While this may sound limiting, don’t fear: TikTok has a host of editing tools in-app that enable you to create unique and original content.
  • Setup: The first prompt you get when logging in to the application is one asking your interests. Would you like to see comedy skits? Do you follow beauty influencers? What about dance performance? Your answers to these questions feed TikTok’s algorithm and influence what content you view under the “For You” page (one of two pages that make up your TikTok “Home” screen). The “Following” page consists of users you are subscribed to after tapping around the app and finding what you like. Each user has a page setup much like Instagram -a photo of themselves, their handle, a follower count, bio, and their content.
  • Creating Content: Similar to Snapchat, creating your own content starts with a simple point-and-shoot clip. You only have a limited amount of time to deliver your message. Even though TikTok has updated its abilities, and you can now post longer videos, most users are still scrolling quickly. Try to hook their attention in the first few seconds of your video.

How can I use TikTok for book promotion?

Here is where you’ll need to get creative! TikTok has little text involved, and is video-based. In other words, TikTok users aren’t typically looking to read when they engage with the app. Get involved in the #BookTok community to begin promoting your book. Thankfully, there are plenty of opportunities to promote your book.
  • Challenges and trends: TikTok users generate a great deal of challenge and trend-based content, including the BookTok community, that you can monitor and utilize tailored to your own content.
  • Connect with your audience: Share “Monthly TBR” or “Wrap-Up” videos to show your audience what you like to read and use this opportunity to share books that are similar to yours. Grab the attention of those that are in your book’s target audience. Interact with their comments and foster those relationships.
  • Most importantly, stay active on TikTok! It’s recommended that you post 1-4 times per day to promote organic growth (Planly). Staying active on the app will not only help with growth opportunities, but also keep you in the know on trending challenges, sounds, and more. Lean in to what is trending and tweak it to align with your own content.
TikTok has increased in notoriety to the point of Facebook imitating the application, and Instagram introducing Reels. It’s time for you to make use of the trend. Now you’re ready to TikTok with the best of them!

References

https://www.clairemckinneypr.com/social-media-101-snapchat-and-author-branding/ https://www.clairemckinneypr.com/social-media-101-instagram-updates/ https://blog.hootsuite.com/tiktok-for-business/ https://planly.com/tiktok-limits/#:~:text=1%2D4%20posts%20per%20day%20on%20TikTok%20is%20better%20for%20TikTok%20growth https://techcrunch.com/2018/06/05/facebook-lip-sync-live/

What is the Best Social Media for Authors?

Most people have multiple social media accounts in order to consume a wide variety of content. However, for creators themselves, it’s better to stick to one or two social media sites in order to better build a focused audience. This post is meant to help you discover the best social media for you as an author, rather than the best overall. Each has its own demographic, so no one social media is best for everyone.

TikTok

Tiktok is much more popular with the younger generation than anyone else. 25% of TikTok users in the US are aged 10-19, with a 2:1 ratio of female to male users. YA books are popular among TikTok’s younger demographic. The best tag for authors to use is #booktok, as many readers use that tag to find new books to read or talk about.

Instagram

Instagram is one of the most popular social media sites. Thanks to it taking inspiration from several other sites, its content is fairly generalized. The same goes for its audience. Most Instagram users are 18-34 years old, and the split between male and female users is miniscule. There’s a slight lean toward men, with 50.6% of users being men and 49.4% being women. Like TikTok, it has its own tag for authors and readers: #bookstagram. There are also widely used niche hashtags by trope and micro community.

Facebook

Meta’s very first social media site, Facebook, is well known as an early pioneer of social media. Because of its age and fame in the online world, it’s possibly the most popular social media site. Many people assume Facebook is used by primarily older generations, however the majority of its users are 25-34 years old. The gender demographic skews toward men, with 56.8% of users being male and 43.2% female.

Reddit

Reddit is incredibly useful for building an audience in a certain subject. Subreddits are helpful for finding people who enjoy the same things you do. Like Instagram, the majority of Reddit users are young adults, with 42% of its users being 18-24 years old. Reddit has the biggest gender split so far, with 63.8% being male and 36.2% female. However, all of these stats can change depending on the specific subreddit you’re using.

Tumblr

Tumblr is the most unique of the social media listed. It encourages people to reshare and engage with posts they like, and more unexpected people use it than one would think. Niel Gaiman and John Green are two well known authors who regularly use Tumblr. 28% of its users are 18-29 years old, and 69% are millennials overall. Its gender split is very even, like Instagram’s. 48% of its users are female, and 52% are male.

X

X, previously Twitter, is incredibly popular. It’s best for short-form content and short bursts of advertising due to its character limit, but that doesn’t stop it from being useful. The majority of X users are 25-34 years old, and 70.4% of its users are male. This is the biggest gender gap of the social media discussed. These are some of the most well-known and used social media platforms you can use as an author to build an audience and market your book. As said earlier, it’s best to stick to one or two, preferably the ones that will have the biggest potential audience for your content.

References

TikTok User Statistics (2023) (backlinko.com) Instagram Users, Stats, Data, Trends, and More — DataReportal – Global Digital Insights Facebook Users, Stats, Data, Trends, and More — DataReportal – Global Digital Insights Reddit Statistics For 2023: Eye-Opening Usage & Traffic Data (foundationinc.co) https://blog.gitnux.com/tumblr-statistics/ 23 Essential Twitter Statistics You Need to Know in 2023 (thesocialshepherd.com)

Threads vs. X – Competition in the Social Media Sphere

With the complete rebranding of Twitter, now known as X, it’s a ripe time for some competition in the social media sphere. Meta has eagerly jumped at the opportunity and created Threads in hopes that previous Twitter users will migrate over to their new platform. Though both platforms look similar on the surface, there are some key differences with Threads vs. X.

The most notable difference is that Threads is linked to your Instagram account. You log in using your Instagram, and any Instagram followers will be notified when you make a Threads account. However, this also means that once you make a Threads account, it can’t be deleted without also deleting your Instagram account. Unlike Twitter, Threads is intended for longer discussions. The character limit of the initial post is 500 as opposed to Twitter’s 280, and posts can be linked together as threads, hence the name. This means you have to think things through before posting on Threads to make sure the narrative is cohesive.

Interestingly, Twitter and Threads share a similar gender distribution. According to this article, 70% of Twitter users are male. Another article states that 68% of Threads users are male. Threads’ demographics is unexpected because Instagram and Facebook are used primarily by women. Potentially, the style of content appeals more to men and thus more male Instagram users are joining Threads.

Inactive Users

Unfortunately for Threads, despite the high user count, not all of them are active. The app’s use peaked on July 7th at the time of writing at only 45% of Twitter’s daily use. This is due to a combination of factors.

First of all, Twitter users don’t want to lose the followings they’ve amassed over the years. It can be discouraging to have to build yourself up from nothing, so people are reluctant to switch platforms.

Secondly, Threads doesn’t have the activity of Twitter. There’s less happening on Threads because people aren’t as active on it. That makes scrolling through the activity feed less appealing because there’s less content to see.

Lastly, Threads just isn’t complete yet. Meta has been planning to release Threads for a while, but recent backlash against Musk and Twitter’s rebranding is likely why it has been released at this point. It doesn’t have all of the expected features of an app of its type just yet. There’s no direct messaging, no search function, no hashtags, and no access to trending topics. It feels more like an open beta than a completed app.

Potential

Threads does have a lot of potential, but it currently isn’t in a state worth investing in. When more features are released and its active user base grows, it certainly has a chance to overcome Twitter. For now, it’s good to keep an eye on it as it progresses.

References

Why is Twitter called X now? Elon Musk’s rebrand explained and where it’s going next | TechRadar

PSA: You Can’t Delete Your Threads Account Without Also Deleting Instagram (makeuseof.com)

23 Essential Twitter Statistics You Need to Know in 2023 (thesocialshepherd.com)

Threads App Statistics 2023 – By Country, Sign-Ups, User, History (enterpriseappstoday.com)

Threads Usage Drops By Half From Initial Surge | Similarweb

AI Art and How it Affects Design

With the rise of AI such as ChatGPT and Dall-E, people are forgoing hiring artists and designers to instead use AI to create art for them. However, AI art has many flaws that make it pale in comparison to hiring human artists, greatly affecting the world of art and design.

 

One of AI art’s biggest flaws is the moral and legal conundrum that comes with training it. AI art has to be trained on human art, which is usually used without permission or credit. Artists may not even be aware their art is being used by a learning model, which can make legal claims even more difficult. This also means the AI models that are intended to replace human artists are using those artist’s creations to learn.

 

Nowadays, artists have the ability to opt-out of their work being used to train AI on most platforms. This is especially prevalent on DeviantArt, a site created specifically for artists to showcase their work, which has its own AI art software. As more and more artists opt out of including their work in AI data sets or use specific watermarks that are not AI-friendly, the amount of original works to learn from are hopefully dwindling. Without human art to train AI, it could eventually be forced to learn from other AI art. This would theoretically cause a negative feedback loop where the AI art gets worse and worse due to only learning from itself.

 

Since AI is limited to only training from pre-existing art, the result is typically unoriginal and uninspiring. AI can’t come up with unique concepts. This creates the risk of anything using AI art ending up with a repetitive style and design. This can be very bad in a field where you want your work to stand out and catch people’s eye.

 

Another flaw of AI art is that it is incredibly difficult to explain what you want it to do. If it gives you something you like, but have some issues with, you can’t ask it to make edits. You either have to accept what it gives you or have it completely redone. This is unlike an actual, sentient artist who can make adjustments to the piece as it’s being made. You can also request far more specific details from a human artist, such as color palette, character design, and specific font. An AI art generator that will accept any of those parameters is currently unheard of.

 

None of this is mentioning the controversy surrounding AI art. Not only is it not popular with human artists, there have been lawsuits due to its derivative nature. In January of this year, artists sued Midjourney, a well known AI art generator, for using their art to train the program. Midjourney was able to mimic the specific art style of these artists, which helped prove how derivative it truly was and provide evidence against them for the lawsuit.

 

While using AI art may seem appealing because of its time and cost effectiveness, the final product and how AI affects design might not be worth it. Hiring a human artist to create the art and design for your product or brand is overall the better choice.

Sources:

https://www.artnews.com/art-in-america/features/midjourney-ai-art-image-generators-lawsuit-1234665579/

https://www.vice.com/en/article/m7gynq/why-is-ai-art-so-bad

https://victorycto.com/ai-generated-art-pros-and-cons/#:~:text=While%20it%20has%20the%20potential,potential%20devaluation%20of%20human%20creativity.

https://www.google.com/url?q=https://glaze.cs.uchicago.edu/what-is-glaze.html&sa=D&source=docs&ust=1690213352869221&usg=AOvVaw30uscbZ2bnNdqs_CbFpLhi