Avoiding Cannibalism and Bibliocide: More About eBook Metadata

Here at Lulu, we receive millions of letters every single day asking questions about metadata. While we can’t answer each one personally, we do read them all. On occasion, we come across a cry for help that we simply can’t ignore—a yearning that sums up the heartbreak and confusion of writers from all walks of life. We have no choice but to respond.

Today is such an occasion. So we’re sharing this question and answering it as best we can. Toby Maguire (no, not the Toby Maguire) of Hamburger, TN, asks:

Dear Lulu,

While it was approved for retail distribution, no one seems to be buying my eBook. It’s called “Murder a Book About Killing. Do you think my metadata is at fault? Please help!

-TM (not the TM)

Well, Toby, we think we know what the problem is. Your eBook is suffering from a fairly common affliction known as Title/Subtitle Confusion Disorder (T/SCD). Luckily, there’s a very simple solution: punctuation!

You see, “Murder a Book About Killing” sounds like you’re ordering the reader to actually murder a book, in particular a book on the topic of death-dealing. It’s confusing. Also, no one likes to be ordered around.

We think your intended eBook title/subtitle pairing is “Murder: A Book About Killing.” That colon makes a huge difference. It now reads more like a title (Murder) with a descriptive (though somewhat obvious) subtitle (A Book About Killing). In the same way that “Let’s eat grandma!” and “Let’s eat, grandma!” mean very different things, improper punctuation or formatting of your title and subtitle can alter the impact and the meaning of your title.

T/SCD is also prevalent among series of eBooks. The Lord of the Things Part One The Fellowship of the Thing (it’s not fanfic, it’s a pastiche) needs punctuation. This is the eBook metadata equivalent of a run-on sentence. It needs a break between elements. For example:

The Fellowship of the Thing, Part One: The Fellowship of the Thing

Much better, right? And such a simple way to improve your metadata. It only takes a moment. When you’re entering your project title in the Content Creation Wizard, simply insert a colon followed by a space (: ) or a hyphen preceded by and followed by a space ( – ) where you want the title/subtitle split to occur. Either method will break your metadata into more digestible chunks for readers and catalogers alike.

Toby, make your eBook metadata accurate, make it easy to understand, and make it more catchy than confusing. Do this and you’re that much closer to reaching your audience. (And you’ll have fewer people killing innocent books.)

 

Metadata vs. Zombies: A Love Story and Weight Loss Guide

Readers are smart. They aren’t mindless drooling zombies driven by keyword searches. And yet eBook metadata sometimes assumes a startling lack of reader judgment.

“Meta what?” you ask. Metadata is data about data. In eBook terms it consists of your title, subtitle, author name, category, etc. For those of you who remember the 1900s, metadata would be the cards in a card catalog. When eBook buyers search for something to read, it’s your metadata that they find.

Let’s take a look at an example of very bad metadata. Imagine putting this in your title field:

“My Journey to Self Fulfillment and Profit Relationship Singles Conspiracy Diet Recipe free Coupons Weight Loss (A Book About Moving to The Beach and Learning to love titled “Love on the Coast” – You Can Get Healthy. Vampires.)”

Let’s ignore the obvious issue of length for now and talk about the content of this title. What exactly is it describing? No idea. Were I a mindless keyword zombie, I might zero in on “Weight Loss” and decide to lose a few pounds. But, brains intact, I’m not about to slap down my hard earned cash for the eBook equivalent of spam. Readers are more than their searches.

That last bit bears repeating. Readers are more than their searches.

Loading your title metadata with keywords that you think will turn up often in searches won’t bring you appropriate readers. Instead, eBook buyers will quickly scroll past your less than legitimate looking title.

What’s more, cramming as much as you can into a title results in other issues. For example, metadata that doesn’t jive with the info on your marketing image, or improper capitalization—to name two very common issues that kick plenty of otherwise good reads out of retail distribution.

Of course the example above is exaggerated to make a point, but it never hurts to take a long hard look at your metadata. Does it accurately describe your content? And will it, in addition to showing up in the proper searches, inspire downloads?

Lulu wants to distribute your work. It’s why we exist! Your providing accurate metadata helps us do that… and helps you reach readers who will connect with your work.

How Can I Sell More Books?

stacked_books_270pxOne of my favorite parts of my job is speaking with independent authors and listening to the challenges they face on their paths to success.  One of the most common questions during these discussions is how can I sell more books? As my colleagues and I began hearing it more regularly, we began asking ourselves how can we help them sell more books?

To answer this question, we asked 4,000 of Lulu’s best-selling authors to share the best practices that they’ve learned on their path to book marketing and sales success. Both the eagerness with which the authors replied to our request and what their responses revealed were eye-opening.

There are enough tips and tricks to fill 35 pages (download the whole report here), which the Lulu team has arranged into three intuitive and easy-to-digest sections: Know your Audience; Know your Book; and Know your Plan. The free guide also includes a section called Steal these Resources, wherein we give you access to valuable tools that can help you sell more books.

In the interest of helping self-published authors everywhere make the most of the holiday sales season, I want to share three of the most compelling insights and pieces of advice we gathered from Lulu authors.

1. The most important step towards effectively marketing your product – whether it’s a book or a business or a lemonade stand – is understanding your audience. Nearly 60 percent of the authors we surveyed attributed their success to their book’s subject matter being targeted to a specific audience’s needs. The key questions Lulu authors answered about their target markets are: What is my audience interested in? Where do they spend time online and in the real world? How do they already satisfy their need for content similar to mine (e.g., blogs, magazines, social communities, events, video, etc.)? What can my book offer them that’s not available anywhere else? Good and full answers to these questions form the foundation of for what’s next.

2. Know what attributes of your book will make it stand out and what marketing activities will best highlight these strengths to help drive sales. To help you understand these steps, we asked our authors what made a difference for them. Here’s how authors ranked specific items and the frequency with which they said they were important:

  • The book’s title, topic and audience (ties back to #1 above)
  • Driving awareness and sales through word-of-mouth
  • Having both print and ebook versions available
  • Producing a high quality printed book with a great cover design
  • Having customer reviews available for buyers to peruse

3. It doesn’t take as much time or money as you think. More than three-quarters of Lulu’s most successful authors dedicated 10 hours or less to the marketing of their book each week. And if you think that sounds like a lot of time, more than 60 percent of them spent five hours or less. That’s just an hour a day spent on marketing that led to the right outcome. And here’s even better news: 65 percent invested less than $500 in marketing their book, while another 7 percent spent nothing at all. Where do they invest their marketing dollars? It goes mainly to advertising, website management, promotional copies, and events. For a detailed breakout of how authors spent their advertising budgets, you’ll want to have a look at page 25 of the guide.

The full guide, “Marketing Your Book for Holiday Sales,” is available for free at success.lulu.com. I invite you to download your copy now Happy selling!

12 Tips for Marketing and Sales Success: Tip 7 – The More Books the Merrier

There is another secret to selling lots of books: writing lots of books. We asked best-selling authors how many books they had written. Here’s what they said:

Nine out of ten best-selling authors have published more than one book. More than half have published ten or more books.

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 8.32.01 PM

Writing lots of books in one niche has many benefits. For starters, you don’t have to relearn your audience. And if you write non-fiction, you’ll also be able to re-use a lot of the research you did for your first book.

 

 

12 Tips for Marketing and Sales Success: Tip 6 – What Matters Most?

Okay, you’ve conquered the art of developing an audience, positioning your book and targeting your readers with an effective distribution strategy. Now let’s talk about that book you want them to read — yours.

Ever looked at the bestseller lists and wondered, “What are they doing that I’m not doing?”

It’s important to know what attributes of your book will make it stand out and what marketing activities will best highlight these strengths to help drive sales. To help you understand these steps, we asked our authors what made a difference for them.

Here’s how authors ranked specific items and the frequency with which they said they were important:

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 7.19.12 PMScreen Shot 2013-12-11 at 8.16.19 PM

12 Tips for Marketing and Sales Success: Tip 5 – Know Your Book

Many best-selling authors pick their topic or angle specifically because they know it will be of interest to their audience. The pairing of those two strategies – targeting an audience and delivering a unique message to them – is what sells books. As one author said, “We wrote the book for a specific market giving them information we knew they needed.”

In the marketing world, this is called positioning – understanding your audience and explaining why your book is uniquely suited to their interests. You might also think of it as “finding your niche.” Once you’ve found your niche, you’ll have a clear, easily articulated understanding of what your book is about, who it’s for, and how it fits into the existing body of published books within your domain.

Here’s an analogy for you. Entrepreneurs are often challenged to come up with an elevator pitch for their business – it’s a short, interesting way to explain what value their business offers to the world in the time you’d have in the elevator with them. It has to be concise and informative while driving the person you’re speaking with to take action. For you as an author, the elevator pitch for your book may sound a lot different from that of a start-up, but it still affords you the benefit of successfully positioning your book to your audience.

To show how powerful a good elevator pitch can be, let’s play a game. Below are four elevator pitches for best-selling books, presented as though they were new books on the market.

Western meets suspense meets a Tarantino-esque hit man . A cowboy stumbles on a drug deal gone bad, takes the money, only to find that he’s being hunted by a relentless killer.

~~~

Hearts will race for lovers of fan fiction . For the tween girl that would risk her soul for the everlasting love of the vampire version of James Dean.

~~~

If you love puzzles, religious symbolism and a great crime mystery, you’ll hang on every action-packed moment as our hero decodes his way across Europe to uncover an ancient secret, zealously guarded by a clandestine society that will stop at nothing to protect it.

~~~

What if dinosaurs could be cloned? For the child in all of us that still marvels at T . Rex in the natural history museum, this sci-fi adventure novel set in the modern age tells the story of an adventure theme park whose proprietors have brought dinosaurs back from extinction.

See how just a few sentences can create interest in a book for the reader? That is the power of positioning. Think you know which books these are? To see the answers, visit this link on the Lulu blog.

http://www.lulu.com/blog/2013/10/crafting-an-elevator-pitch-for-your-book

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 6.39.43 PMFind The Helix Review here: http://lulu.com/services/helix-review.

 

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Screen Shot 2013-11-27 at 3.55.19 PMWell gang, it’s that time of year again, where we gather around with friends and family and celebrate what we are thankful for. Here at Lulu, we are thankful for all of you, our amazing authors, who continue to support us and inspire us to help you share your works of art with the world. So, in the spirit of the holiday, Lulu would love to know what you are thankful for this year. Below are some thoughts on thankfulness this holiday from our employees. We want to hear from you too!

  • Bob Young, Founder of Lulu.com (and a native of Canada) is thankful for having TWO Thanksgivings. Thanksgiving in Canada is the second Monday of October.
  • Rachel B., Sr. Manager of Customer Voice is thankful for working with a talented team that she can trust to do the best job possible, and water. Water is used to make her two favorite beverages, coffee and beer.
  • Sarah B., Distribution Services Advocate, says she thankful for being an omnivore apex predator.
  • Christian S., Customer Voice Advocate, said I’m thankful for being able to be around my family this Thanksgiving. After spending 6 Thanksgiving holidays deployed in the Middle East, one learns to appreciate even the smallest of things. My family and the memories we create is what means the most to me this Thanksgiving.

Hope you all have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

12 Tips for Marketing and Sales Success: Tip 4 – Beyond the Lulu Author Experience

Distribution channels for authors, both traditionally published and self-published, are changing. With the closing of many large brick-and-mortar booksellers, the most notable of which was the exit of Borders, all publishers are reevaluating their distribution strategy. In August 2013, Bowker released study findings citing a 5% increase in online book sales in the U.S., up to 44% of total book sales compared to 39% in 2011.

What does this mean for you? Focus on your audience and the best distribution strategy for them. If you can reach them via your own existing channels or easy-to-find networks and communities, selling to them on Lulu.com’s marketplace can be a strong component of your distribution strategy. If you need to target a broader audience that seeks content all over the Internet and in stores, you may want to expand to additional distribution channels.

Another more recent survey of book buyers’ perceptions may be helpful. The eBook formatting fairies did a survey of readers in August 2013 ( http://e-bookformattingfairies.blogspot.com/2013_08_01_ archive.html ) that revealed fantastic insights into how readers perceive books and authors. We’ve compiled a few highlights of their findings below.

To view larger image or download the entire guide, click here

Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 3.15.11 PM

12 Tips for Marketing and Sales Success: Tip 3 – Know Where Your Audience Shops

In the book business, figuring out where people shop and how to get books to those places is called a distribution strategy.

There’s more to a distribution strategy than just bookstores. Some authors leverage their professional connections to make sales. Others teach classes and sell their books to students. And still others sell their books through churches or partner with niche websites.

There are numerous ways to distribute your book, and it takes some trial and error to find the right distribution channels. Every book is different, but we wanted to see if there was a pattern in where authors sold their books. Here’s where our best-selling authors sold their books:

Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 3.07.56 PM

Helix Review Author Round Up

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 10.13.03 AMBack in early August, we began featuring authors that have used the Helix Review to gain insight into their writing style and how to better market their books, so we could share what they learned with you. The Helix Review analyzes your book’s content and writing style and compares it to the most successful literary works of all-time, giving authors a valuable insight into their manuscript.

From my own perspective this has been a learning experience. Not only did authors share with us what they had learned from Helix, they also shared how they were implementing these insights into their work.

We’ve spoken to over 20 authors and I want to share some of the most valuable feedback my team and I heard:

1. Helix is instrumental in defining a direction and audience for your book.

  • “By comparing my book to another text that I have a great deal of respect for, and receiving a favorable review, I can proceed with confidence as I work on my next book.” – Read the interview with John Locke, author of Stuff I’ve Written So Far

2. Understand how your book fits in your genre and compares to similar books.

  • “I gained a sense of confidence in seeing that my writing is comparable to other works and measured favorably when compared to other books in the field. – Read the interview with B.D. Salerno, author of Forensics by the Stars: Astrology Investigates

3. Using Helix to narrow down your target publishers based on genre and style.

  • “The information provided in the 21 page report helped me target specific publishers, it has provided me with 10 other best selling books that I can compare and use when discussing books that are rated as similar in writing style.” – Read the interview with Gregory L. Truman, author of Hitting the Wall

Authors continue to inform and educate us on how they are finding the review valuable and how they are using it to identify new audiences for their book. If you are an author that has used the Helix Review for your book, we’d still love to hear from you. You can submit your feedback here.

For the complete list of Helix Review interviews, click here.