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Using Keywords to Show up in Searches: Review of Supercharge Your Kindle Sales

Starting out as an indie author

Last month, before Chameleon in a Mirror had its free run and Island of Glass was available for pre-release, I did an experiment. At the beginning of October, I got a review copy from Nick Stephenson of his book Supercharge Your Kindle Sales. While he made a great case for using keywords to help make your book more visible, I didn’t want to write a review until I had some actual results on which to base my judgment.

Supercharge Your Kindle Sales

I’ve already pointed out in another post in the series “Starting out as an Indie Author” how you can use keywords to get into niche categories. The first section of Supercharge Your Kindle Sales represents another method of using keywords: finding keywords that will help your book’s visibility when readers type in search terms, another way besides categories that your book can be found. Not only that, Stephenson says it is important to use keywords tied to genres that are selling well, but where the competition is not as great. The author provides step-by-step instructions in how to do this, either manually by testing keywords in the Amazon search bar and analyzing the results yourself, or automatically, using paid tools such as Kindle Samurai.

My first attempts at supercharging didn’t have much of an effect. Downloads of my permafree story Gawain and Ragnell picked up, but everything else remained about the same. The difference here, I believe, is that G&R already had a certain amount of visibility through being in the top 100 list in Arthurian fiction.

So before writing my review, I decided to wait and see what effect, if any, the new keywords might have on a free promotion. I hadn’t tested a free run with one of my novels in over a year. Back then, without doing any advertising, I managed to give away about 300 copies of my Arthurian novel, Shadow of Stone. This time, without doing any advertising, I managed to give away about 2000 copies of my time travel into literary history, Chameleon in a Mirror.

I still wasn’t completely sold on the method. What matters after a free run is how well the book sells and how long it remains visible, after all. Now, over two weeks after the promotion, CIAM is still in a top 100 list. No only that, Island of Glass is in *2* top 100 lists.

To show you how this method can help, I took a couple of screenshots while CIAM was doing particularly well.

Keyword search

Keyword search
Keyword screenshots

As you can see, CIAM was showing up right at the top for both “time travel historical” and “fantasy time travel.” The book is no longer quite as high with those search terms, but it is still on the first page — which is where you want your book to be.

I also attempted to follow Nick Stephenson’s instructions on how to improve your mailing list (the second half of the book), but that has been much less successful for me than changing my keywords. The information and tips on keywords alone, however, make this book worth reading. But as I mentioned above, a change in keywords would probably have to be done in conjunction with some other kind of promotion to get your book high enough in the rankings to show up in search results in the first place.

Other posts in this series:

Starting out as an indie author: preparing your manuscript for ebook retailers

Starting out as an indie author: Using distributors for getting into online bookstores

Starting out as an indie author: Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and Xinxii (Using distributors, part 2)

Starting out as an indie author: The costs of self-publishing

Starting out as an indie author: Why editing is important — and who can skip the expense after all

Starting out as an indie author: Creating your own covers

Starting out as an indie author: Interview with Kate Sparkes

Starting Out as an Indie Author: Getting Your Books into Google Play

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Writing progress and upcoming freebies

Just a short update today. This past week, I’ve been caught up in the business end of going indie, and the writing progress, while perhaps looking good in numbers, is less than I would have wanted. I am now at 51,000 words for Chameleon in a Mirror, but the 11,000 words added in the last week were edited rather than typed in from scratch, as I have been doing until now with this new version of the novel. But after rereading this section in the old version, it seemed to me that it needed less work than earlier chapters, so I decided to largely go with what I already had.

Business progress: after creating the new cover for The Future, Imperfect, (partly alone and partly with my daughter) I decided to schedule a freebie to test it and see if it gets better downloads now than with the old cover. So if you don’t have it yet, make a note that my collection of dystopian stories will be free July 10-11. If you download it and enjoy the stories, please consider leaving a review! I think it’s safe to say that reviews are more important for indie publications than for traditional publications. Reviews are the new gatekeepers. I got a great review of the collection on a blog, but it’s still reviewless on Amazon. Besides the lit-fic looking cover, I think that’s the other main reason the sales are so far behind my other ebooks.

In order to keep the link in the alsobots with the other science fiction title I have available as ebook, I will also be giving away Looking Through Lace on July 10. Please pass the word along!

Speaking of Looking Through Lace, I have contacted a cover artist for the second novella in the series, Beyond the Waters of the World. Next week, I will probably be putting Chameleon in a Mirror on hold for a while to whip Waters into shape. Once I’ve determined how much time I’ll still need, I will announce a publication date.

I wish everyone a great week!

Great review of Shadow of Stone!

Just a short note: Shadow of Stone (The Pendragon Chronicles) got its first review today, and a very enthusiastic one it is. 🙂 You can read it here.

Given that wonderful endorsement, I would like to remind you that Shadow of Stone is free today for the Kindle!

Those of you who subscribe to Daily Science Fiction, the story in your mailbox today is my flash piece, “The Magician of Words.” I hope you enjoy it!

A visit, a castle, a review, an Italian greeting, and more freebies

After a relatively spontaneous visit to Stuttgart (a long weekend added to a business trip), my brother left early this morning for Frankfurt, then Heathrow (good luck), then Seattle. We had a wonderful time, and he is now the first of my immediate family to meet my granddaughter Mira — one of the disadvantages of relocating to another continent. But the girls really liked him: Lisa was quite disappointed that he was already gone when they came by today for my birthday dinner, and Mira hopped around on the bed that they use when they spend the night and said, “David schläft hier.” (David sleeps here.)

But I promised to share some pics of our trip to Hohenzollern Castle, so here goes:

On our way back from Hohenzollern, we also visited Tübingen. Here’s the standard postcard shot:

Tübingen

It was a great, whirlwind visit, but needless to say, writing goals were largely on hold for the duration. I only made it through a couple more chapters on the manuscript of Shadow of Stone that I got back from my editor, but I wasn’t expecting much more, so I’m not disappointed. One must make time for family, especially if you only see them once a year — or less.

But I had a nice surprise in the writing realm today, a new review of my collection Never Ever After:

Do you remember being read fairy tales when you were a child? The monsters were always defeated, the beautiful lady was always rescued by Prince Charming, and everyone lived happily ever after. Or did they? What happened after the end of the stories that we read? Did everyone really live happily ever after?

… These stories were a joy to read. The novella is short, so it only took a few hours to read through them. If you are a fan of fairy tales, you would love these stories written from a unique perspective.

Another lovely surprise for the day was the birthday greeting from the Italian reviewer of Yseult, Valentina Coluccelli: “Auguri di cuore a una delle mie autrici preferite! Un abbraccio.” Babelfish translated it thus: “Auguries of heart to one of my preferred authors! An embrace.” Valentina corrected the translation to make it a bit more colloquial: “Greetings from the heart to one of my favorite authors! A hug” *g*

In the middle of all of this, I have another couple of freebies going on, to use up free days: If Tears Were Wishes And Other Stories is free today and tomorrow, May 9-10. Tomorrow, May 10, my collection Dragon Time And Other Stories goes free for two days (May 10-11). If you feel so inclined, please pass the word along! This will be the last chance to get If Tears Were Wishes free, since I’m taking it out of KDP Select next week.

I still have the guest lecture to put together, but I’m hoping that in the next few days I can get back to fiction writing again on a regular basis.

If nothing else, life is a challenge, and that keeps it interesting, right? 🙂

Leap Year Promotion: Yseult free for 24 hours, Feb. 29!

It’s starting to look like I’m addicted to these free promotions, doesn’t it? The truth of the matter is, they’ve been very good for my sales. With the exception of my story collection If Tears Were Wishes, everything I’ve offered for free with KDP Select has come out of the free promotion with a dramatic increase in sales. Five days after the free promotion for Dragon Time it is still in a couple of top 100 lists:

#35 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Anthologies
#91 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Fantasy > Historical

So anyway, if you didn’t get a copy of Yseult during the introductory promotion, here’s your chance to get it now. And please pass the word along! The more people who download and the better rankings it gets, the better it will be for sales when it goes back to paid.

Now, if I can only learn how to create sustained sales without going through this promotion gig every week or two. It’s a lot of work.

That isn’t all I’ve been doing, though. Over on the Codex Writing Workshop, they had a “subber” challenge, and I finally got some stories out into the cold cruel world again. Seven short story submissions in two days. And my “ready to send” list is still way to long. I have to do that more often, challenge or no challenge.

I also have only two more chapters left to go on this final editing pass of Shadow of Stone. I doubt if I’ll be finishing it tonight, though. I’m tired.

BTW, my story collections got some very nice reviews by Kriti Godey. She won a LibraryThing giveaway of Yseult and liked it so much she got all the stories I’ve put up for Kindle until now. Thanks again, Kriti! I guess this is what they call creating an audience base. It’s not an overnight thing; I have to give my target audience the chance to find me. But at least in the indie world I’m not going to get relegated to the remainder bin.

Epub joys and woes: New review of Yseult, getting reviews for Tears

For me, one of the nicest things about switching from an emphasis on traditional publication to indie is that I’m getting a lot more direct feedback from readers. Ok, direct feedback isn’t always good, as we know, and I tend to approach reviews of a novel that I spent years writing with a certain amount of trepidation. Which is why I do not haunt Amazon, waiting to see if another review will show up — and that in turn is why I’m a bit late reporting about the lovely new review of Yseult by Kriti Godey:

… I opened up Yseult to flip through it and see what kind of a book it was. I’m usually not the biggest fan of romance, even though I love fantasy and historical books, so I wasn’t really expecting to get sucked into this book like I was. I started reading, and couldn’t stop….

The book is much more than a love story. It is truly an epic, exploring the conflicts between paganism and Christianity, political maneuvering between the various kings of Britain and Ireland, the wars between themselves and with the Saxons, and a lot more. It reminded me a bit of The Mists of Avalon, although Yseult was much more fun to read. (Complete review here.)

Now that’s the kind of comparison I like! 😀 I also really liked that she thought the way I portrayed the religious conflict of the time as “almost unbiased,” something I was aiming for while writing the book. I tried hard to show the advantages of both the old religion and the new. My “bad guys” are not one religion or the other, they are people who use belief systems for their own purposes, i.e. hypocrites. The German translation got locked into the Celtic revivalist corner pretty quickly, however, which made me feel a bit powerless. It’s wonderful to be reaching readers now who seem to understand better what I was trying to do with that novel. Thank you, Kriti!

Reviews and editors have been the theme of the week for the latest reassessment of my writing goals. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve decided to move contacting book blogs higher up on my list of priorities. As compared to the couple thousand downloads both Yseult and Never Ever After got during their free promotions, If Tears Were Wishes came in at a little over 600 (assuming Amazon is reporting correctly.) I did much the same pre-freebie promotion for all three ebooks, but there was one major difference: If Tears Were Wishes didn’t have any reviews.

I was a bit frustrated by my first few attempts contacting book blog sites when Yseult first came out, but now I realize I just have to keep on plugging, finding more possible venues. Basta.

At least I’m making consistent progress on Shadow of Stone. I’m over three-fourths through on my final editing pass, and this weekend I contacted a number of freelance editors about prices and availability. In the next few days, I’ll be sending out samples to those who responded to try and find the best match. Fairly soon I should be able to announce a release date for the follow-up novel to Yseult.

But as I’ve noted before, most of my writing life these days tends to revolve around the many aspects of the business side of things. Mostly I feel good, since I’m more in control, but I do hope that someday I will have the marketing beast better trained and will have more time for fiction.

Giving more books away and a new review

I was recently asked how my strategies for getting reviews were working, and all I can say is – not. I have several people interested in doing an interview with me, though. When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Writing a review is definitely more work than sending out interview questions and then posting them to your blog. I’m not knocking it; it’s just an observation. I’m learning as I go here.

I did get a review yesterday, though, completely unsolicited, for my new story collection Never Ever After. By a guy who must be another ideal reader of mine. *g* I got such a kick out of it that I have to quote it:

First off, I’m struck by her lyricism. Although she’s writing in a novelistic style … there is a kind of poetry to her language, a rhythmic and musical quality to it. Unlike texts that hew completely to a novelistic style–where the reader can “forget” the language and thereby concentrate on the story–Nestvold’s stories really make you revel in a good turn of phrase.

Gotta love it when someone thinks you’re talkin’ purty, right? 🙂 The flip side of the kind of style I used in these stories is that for some readers the language gets in the way of the story proper; it draws attention to itself, something we are taught not to do. But it’s fun to break rules now and then.

So if you like revisionist fairy tales and language that calls attention to itself, you can get my short story collection, Never Ever After, FREE from February 5-7. Pass the word along!

I’ve mostly been sticking with the two days of marketing a week, while the rest of the time I’ve been editing Shadow of Stone. I’m about halfway through, now. Still haven’t contacted the professional editors I’m considering hiring, though. I really should do that tomorrow — as long as I can get it taken care of before I have to pick up my granddaughter from daycare. 🙂

Despite marketing efforts, sales of Yseult have dwindled to just a couple a day, and it has dropped off the bestseller lists. But if I spend too much time marketing, I won’t have any new material. According to Those Who Know, publishing new books is the best way to draw attention to the books you already have. I need to keep that in mind when I’m tempted to try Something! Anything! to push my sales figures back up.

If anyone has any tips on getting reviews, I would love to hear them!

Italian review of my novel

I got a very nice review today of the Italian translation of Yseult, La Fiamma e l’Arpa:

http://greenyellowale.blogspot.com/2011/03/recensione-la-fiamma-e-larpa-di-ruth.html

My command of Italian doesn’t go much beyond ordering a meal in a restaurant, but Google translate did a good enough job on the review that it’s at least somewhat understandable. I got a big kick out of this passage:

The book is so rich that it is impossible to recount every nuance, every emotion transmitted, each author’s choice to depart from tradition or to the material, even manipulating them to the economy … It tells the story of the war with rawness and realism, love with feeling and sensuality, magic and fascination with natural …

The last sentence got pretty mangled: “Racconta la guerra con crudezza e realismo, l’amore con sentimento e sensualità, la magia con naturalezza e fascinazione…” At least I can decipher it myself. 🙂