Archive for March, 2012

Blogs: Elements & Design 3

Still talking about blogs and how to make them work for you…

We talked just a bit about SEO (search engine optimization) earlier.  To optimize your blog for the search engines, you must focus on two key points:

1)  Internally, in the blog, you MUST make heavy use of keywords.  That means deciding on your keywords using Google Adwords and then using those keywords in the blog name, posts, categories, and tags.


2) Externally.

Externally optimizing means two things:  Links out and links in.

The more links you have, the higher Google and the others will rank your blog.

Links out is pretty easy.  If you reference something in your blog, link to it.  So for example, if you have a reference to one of your books, link to it in the post.  If you talk about something in the news, link to the story that tells more about it.  Point to other things on the ‘net, and Google will see you as an expert rather than as a lone-wolf.

Links in is harder.  When you comment on someone else’s blog, be sure to link back to yours.  (Don’t just comment about your blog though… join their discussion!)

Write guest blogs, do interviews, and have others post reviews that link back to your blog.

For me, I cross link my blogs when I post about my books on the bottom of my blog and one of those links goes to my romance blog to the first chapter.

These are harder to get, but worth it.

Next time we’ll talk about how often to post to your blog and getting content help!


Blogs: Elements and Design 2

We will continue our discussion about blogs and the elements that make them up and how to use them to your best benefit.

Once you have the basics of naming your blog, designing the theme, and getting the page the way you want it, you will want to focus on the content of the blog.  That means understanding how to make an effective post that takes a reader through the promo chain rather than giving them great content that leads them nowhere.

Now as I said before, some blogs are designed more as sites than as blogs, and that is fine if yours is that way.  But I would encourage you to still update the top page with new content periodically.  After all, if I’ve read your whole site, why should I come back?  That, to me, is the magic of blogs.

I went for a lot of years with a website and updating it was no fun.  Worse, I had no effective way of pointing people to my new content.  Blogs change that with the ability to let people subscribe and the ability to easily update your content.

Before we get into setting up your posts, let’s review a few points:

1)  Push-Pull Marketing (part of your blog posts will be pull, part will be push)

2)  The Promo Chain (taking a reader from the hook through to the Jump)

3)  Riding the Wave Marketing (setting up and going through a campaign)

4)  Stacking Waves (creating lots of landing pages in various places to be able to promo, your blog is the primary place to do this)

With those in mind, let’s look at a typical post and how to pull-push through the promo chain…

A great post starts with great info.  Have something valuable to say to your readers.  For me on my Spirit Light Books blog, I focus on how Christianity is found in very everyday circumstances. I post about Sunday School lessons I’ve taught, lessons from my kids and friends as well as from things I’ve read and watched.  My central focus is to add value and understanding to my reader’s spiritual journey.  Once in awhile I’ll post about my writing, but even then I try to have some lesson attached that I’ve learned.

So the first thing you want to do is:  Add value.  Don’t make the post all about you.  Give the reader something GREAT they can take away, learn from, and use in their own lives.

You will want to add three things to your post for optimal SEO (search engine optimization):

Pictures — and be sure to use your alternative text to put in keywords!

Categories — Don’t do these haphazardly.  Think in terms of Google Adwords.  You will notice that this G&F Marketing blog is not done that way.  That’s because this blog is focused on YOU, the G&F member, not the general public or even book marketers in general.  It’s not to promote me.  It’s to help you.  However, take a look at my Ebook Romance Stories blog:  Look at the list of categories along the right side in the side column.  All of them are keywords from my Google Adwords searches and I add the ones that fit each post.  The more you can use your keywords in your content, the greater the chance your blog will climb the charts in Google.

Tags — Again, USE YOUR KEYWORDS!  Can you reuse category words?  Absolutely!  Use every keyword you can think of, starting with your main two or three every time.  The more you do this, the higher your site will be placed in Google, and the more people will be able to find you.  Don’t get stingy with tags either.  Use as many as you can think of.  Make a list of them when you’re doing your Google Adwords searches.  The tags on my Ebook Romance Stories post are found at the bottom of each post.


Now that your content is in place, you’ve got your pictures set up and your categories and tags done, you’re done, right?

Not so fast.

Here is the place that for YEARS my marketing stopped.  Big mistake!

You’ve done everything else on the Promo Chain, but finally, you MUST have a way for the reader to Jump to the next landing page!

For me now that I understand this, I have put a jump to something else of mine on every single new post I do.  To see samples of this, you can go here, here, or here.  Scroll to the bottom of each article to see major jumps (those with pictures of a cover that links to the Amazon page, and links to Amazon and B&N) and minor jumps (a simple text link to my other sites).

Make SURE you put a jump tag on every post.  This one, simple thing can make a huge difference in your marketing.  And if you’re like I used to be, don’t think of it as promoting yourself but rather promoting friends (your books) that you really believe in!  That helps!

Have fun marketing!


Blog: Elements and Design 1

March 22, 2012 1 comment

We are now turning our attention to the topic of blogs, and we’ll spend considerable time on these as they are vital as landing pages, as fan builders, and as center points for the rest of your campaign.

Now you can do many of the things we will talk about in the coming weeks with other mediums such as websites.  So if you learn something here that translates to something else you’re doing, FANTASTIC!  Go for it!

The neatest thing about social marketing is how when you learn something one place, it transfers to other sites and makes understanding new things that much easier.  So even if we’re talking blogs, always ask yourself, “How else is this relevant?  Where else can I use this?”

Blogs first burst onto the scene as kind of personal journals.  They were at first called weblogs… web logs.  A log of what you were doing or whatever you wanted to write at the time.  Most of them were much like Facebook pages–a place to let your friends and family know more about you.

However, like everything else, they morphed into something much bigger and broader than that early definition.  Two of the big blog sites:  Blogger and WordPress became dominant names on the ‘net.  With their relative ease of setting up, low cost (how can you argue with “free,” and eventually dynamic and flexible layouts and concepts), blogs soon took over as websites for average people who didn’t want to spend $1,000’s on their site.

Many people now use blogs exclusively as their website.  In fact, when I set up Ebook Romance Stories, I never even considered doing it as a stand alone site.  WordPress was so much easier, and I could do it all myself.  There are some drawbacks to using a blog as website.  With a great designer, websites can be far more flexible for example.  However, for ease blogs simply can’t be beat.

When you design your blog (and yes, I know some of you already have so read this as what to do in the future if you design another one), here are some elements to consider:

Name of the Blog:  Will it be something incorporating your name, or something more generic?  If you are trying to come up with a name, please go back and read the lesson on Adwords.  This will help you find a name that might get you noticed on Google.

Tag for the Blog:  I am far more familiar with WordPress than Blogger, and one of the things you should pay attention to.  The “tag” is the few words that describe your blog at the top under the name.  For this blog, the tag is:  Helping you jump start your marketing efforts!   If this blog was for more than the G&F gang, I would probably change it to include more Adwords like:  Helping authors jump start their book marketing efforts!  (adding authors and book to marketing).  Think this one through as it’s a great place to add some easy keywords.

Pictures & Graphics:  If you use pictures and graphics on your blog (which you should), please note the Alternative Text option when you are putting the picture up.  This is another great way to get in some keywords!

Posts & Pages:  One of the things I didn’t learn until about six months ago was the difference between posts and pages on a blog.  This is important especially if you are planning to use the blog as your website.  Put simply:  Posts all go in order on the main page while Pages are separate stand-alones in addition to the top page.

So for example, on my Spirit Light Books Blog, I have the Home page where I write new posts about Christian Living.  Then I have the Pages:  Contact Staci, Spirit Light Blogs, Staci’s Biography, Staci’s Bookshelf   Each of these is a stand alone page, not affected when I update the main page.

One interesting thing that WordPress allows you to do can be seen on the Ebook Romance Stories blog.  I have made the top post on the main page “sticky” so that it is always the first thing you see on the Home page.  Because that blog is set up so that that pages lead you to the posts (i.e. the first chapter of Cowboy is a post that’s linked from the First Chapter Page), I don’t have to showcase each post.

Widgets:  There are a ton of widgets that you can use to make your blog informative and user-friendly.  One of my favorites on WP is “Follow this Blog.”  You drag that into a column on your blog, and instantly people can sign up to follow the blog–no other feeds necessary.  There are many other widgets as well such as BlogRoll (for listing other blogs you love), a calendar to show posts by date, categories, even Twitter and Facebook.  The options are incredible.

As you are setting up your blog, think through your options and set it up the best you can.  With a blog, you can always update it as you learn more!

Build Your Bookshelf

On the subject of landing pages and the most critical ones, we cannot forget the Bookshelf Landing Page.

Your bookshelf landing page (or site, or section of your site) is the one-stop place for everything about your books.  This page can be a whole section of your site or even a site unto itself depending on your body of work.

For me, I have several bookshelf landing pages.  Here are some examples:


All books (novels, short story collections, & Bible Studies).  As I put new books out, I put one new post on this site and link it to the various options.  When I do tweets that point to the book and the various places you can get it, this is where I often send visitors. I put this site together after I started in the Kindle/Nook market because I hadn’t been keeping up with my website, and rather than spend time revamping that one, I simply put up a new blog that was more site than blog.

Later on, this morphed into my Ebook Romance Stories site.  This site combines the keyword/Adwords that we talked about earlier and the idea of a bookshelf.  In contrast to the Staci Stallings bookshelf, this one focuses only on my romance novels.  However, it is more indepth in that it has a review for each book, the first chapter of each one, and an excerpt.  Each of these pages is a landing page unto itself.  I can, for example, send visitors to the first chapter for Cowboy or an excerpt from Lucky rather than to the entire site.  Also, because it is search engine optimized, it is now climbing the charts for the keywords:  Ebook Romance Stories and Romance Stories.  As it gets closer to the top spot, I should begin to get organic hits that I don’t directly ask for (from people just searching these terms on Google).

Finally, I have a very simple bookshelf on my Spirit Light Books blog:  In fact, this one needs some updating, but the idea is if someone comes to my blog, I want them to have a super-easy option to find out more about my books.

Think through setting up your bookshelf page, pages, or sites carefully.  They can make wonderful landing pages for your future promotions.


Imperative Piece: Reviews!

by:  Staci Stallings

While we’re talking about landing pages and specifically Amazon landing pages, there is something I need to point out.  Reviews are IMPERATIVE!

Prior to getting reviews, you need to make sure your copy is as error-free as you can make it.  Once you’ve done that, you need to start getting reviews.

The truth about reviews is they do not just happen, at least at first, and to garner sales, you need around 10 really good reviews.  5-10 is a good start.  In the 20 range, your sales will begin to ramp up.  So don’t neglect getting as many great reviews as possible.

But how do you do that?

Every author has a different strategy and philosophy about reviews.  Some have a collection of reviewers that they have built up over the years.  They send ARC’s (Advanced Reader Copies) to these reviewers so that when the book is launched, they have built in reviews.  Others wait until it comes out and announce the book is available for review.  You will probably have to provide a review copy no matter how you choose to do this, so budget accordingly.  If you are on Smashwords, I believe there is a way to offer coupons that let readers get the book free or discounted.  If you can format for the devise (.mobi, etc.) you can do it that way.  Or you can prepare and send pdfs or Word docs.  It’s up to you and the reviewer to decide what works the best.

I generally give my reviewers about 3 weeks to a month to complete the review before I go back and email them to make sure they have remembered.  It takes about 15 reviewers to get 10 reviews (I don’t know why.  It just does.)

For me, I generally put a call-out for reviewers to my email writer loops, my FB page, and sometimes on Twitter though that has never given very reliable results.

Collecting reviewers and sending the ARC’s usually takes about 2 days to get everyone squared away.

Another way you can get reviews is through sites like Book Rooster.  On those, you pay a set-up fee of around $60, and they put your book up for review on their site.  People who review for their site will see it and if interested, request a copy.  This is really hit or miss.  I’ve had good luck with some of these and bad luck with others.  Good luck one time and bad luck the next.  There is really no rhyme or reason, so don’t put all your eggs in this basket, thinking it is the answer.  It is part of the answer but not the whole one.

Here are other sites you can check into.  I have not visited all of them.  Some post reviews, others do reviews. (This is a list of 40 promotion sites, some do reviews)
book place on facebook
reviewers roundup – facebook

I have not been to all of these.  Some may not even be working anymore.  But they give you a place to start garnering those imperative reviews!  (Special thanks to Diana Brandmeyer for the list!)

Finally, a note as to why reviews are so important.  If you’ve ever hit an Amazon book page with few or no reviews, how likely are you to purchase that book?  How about if you get to one that has say 25 GREAT reviews.  Makes it much easier to buy, doesn’t it?

That’s what you want for your book!  But it won’t just happen.  You’re going to have to put some effort into this one.

Good luck and God bless!

Landing Page: Author Central

March 13, 2012 2 comments

We’ve talked about landing pages–those places where you will send potential customers and readers to see more about you.  One of these pages should be Amazon’s Author Central page–especially if you have more than one book or one book in more than one form (Kindle and Paperback).

I have to admit that I haven’t taken as much of an advantage of this page as I could have.  I also have to admit that I had to ask someone how to even access it if I’m not sending people directly to it.  (You click on the Author’s Name next to the Book Title on the Amazon book page.)


But I do think you should at least have yours set up so that if a customer wants to know more about you, it won’t be a blank, boring page.

To see what a good Author Central page looks like, we’re going to peruse my friend Penny Zeller’s page.  Go to:

This page gives you quite a bit of info about Penny.  It gives you blog updates for her blog, additional pictures of her, as well as listing all of her available books.

One thing I know from experience that you have to be careful with is that Amazon doesn’t always automatically add your new books to the stream.  So when you put new editions up or add books, make sure they are listed here as well.

Penny’s page also has a good biography and a discussion with an interview at the bottom.

It might not be the #1 landing page you want to send people to, but it’s important to get yours set up so potential fans will be in awe rather than bored! 🙂

Book Landing Pages

March 8, 2012 1 comment

If you’re an author, after your website, your most important Landing Page will probably be your Amazon book page (or your Smashwords/B&N, etc.).  I’m going to talk here about Amazon because they have a dynamic page that you can do many things with.  If you have other book landing pages, you can take what you learn here and use it there as well.

So, let’s talk about the elements of the Amazon Book Page first. I’m going to use my current one for Cowboy to show you, but all of these elements are on your page as well.

First, at the top you have the pic of the book (get a great cover design! That’s a major hook!). The Title of the Book, and then two elements you have some control over.

Reviews and Liked.

We will talk about getting reviews later, but for now, please understand that they are critical to your ability to sell on this page.  The more positive reviews you have (4 or 5 stars; 3 is neutral; and 2 and 1 are negative), the better your chance of selling another book when someone reaches this page.

Like  The little orange button is an easy way to convince new readers that others think your book is great.  To get “Likes” on this page, couple your tag request (we’ll talk about that in a minute) with a request to “Like” your page.  At bare minimum, like your own page so this button is orange and not gray.

Then they give info about the book and other books people have bought who bought yours.  You cannot control any of this, so don’t worry about it.

Under that you get to “Editorial Reviews” and this you can control and should think through carefully.  Many people put only a description here, but you can put other things too, like reviews or even an excerpt.  Remember, if someone’s read down this far, give them something they can’t say no to!

The next section is “Product Details” and although you can’t control this, it is wise to take a look at the number next to “Amazon Best Sellers Rank.”  Unless you write for a line or a large publisher, this number will probably be in the thousands or hundreds of thousands.  Mine on this screen cap is #31,051 in the Paid Kindle Store.

If your book is on any category best seller lists, it will look like this:

The categories in blue underneath tell you what spot your book is on on that last.  If your book is listed like this, congratulations! You are now a Best Selling Author (even if it’s only listed this way for  a few hours!).  Take a screen cap (CNTRL + PRNT SCRN  and then paste it into a Word doc to save) and celebrate!

Underneath the ranking, you will find this:

More About the Author leads to your Amazon Author Central Page.

What Other Items is a section you can’t control as is “Looking for…”

Under THAT is the Tag section.  It looks like this:

This is a section you can and should control.  First, you need to set tags or keywords for your book.  What is the book about?  What genres is it in?  What keywords might someone type in to find this book?

You get 15 of them, so choose wisely.

Once you’ve set your tags, you want people to come and “Agree with these tags.”  Other writers are great for this… especially large groups of other writers.  Network to tag everyone’s books.  Why?  Because if you do and people start buying your books, then you get listed on tagged-category pages that look like this:

On this page, Cowboy is #2 Christian Inspirational tagged.  When you get to this point, this becomes a great landing page for your book in tweets and other promos!

Stay tuned, next time we’ll talk about your Amazon Author Page.