One of the most popular uses for PickFu is to run preference tests on logo designs. If you’re in the process of creating a logo, learn from these past polls and make your tests the best they can be.

1. Decide how much you want to reveal.

Your question is the heart of your PickFu poll, the basic information to which respondents react. When testing a logo, you should consider what, if anything, to tell them about your business or service.

This pollster was deciding between two logos and gave the respondents a basic overview of the business: an organic skincare line made from plants sourced from small farmers. In doing so, the pool of respondents, made up of females earning over $60K, were able to offer thoughts like

  • “… the flower speaks more to the product than the heart does.”
  • “I see more of a plant focus in this logo since the design looks like a flower. Option B can be anything and doesn’t really tell me it’s about plants.”
  • “The picture in choice A makes me think of plants. It feels like a mandala which I would equate with spiritual, natural, and exotic.”

  • However, there are times when you want the logos to speak for themselves. In these situations, asking the most basic question, “which logo design is more appealing?” enables you to see how respondents react without prompting, and glean whether they are reading similar messages in your design.

    In this example, respondents offered reactions such as

  • “A seems more sporty and goes with the brand better.”
  • “The honeycomb background in option A is very appealing and fits the sports brand style.”
  • “seems more advanced and fitting to my assumption of what the logo is for”

  • When writing your question, decide whether some background information should be included. If so, keep it succinct and objective. Read our tips on writing unbiased questions here.

    2. Start broadly, then go specific.

    The first step in logo testing is to test different designs. These initial tests can help you narrow down the best options. One quick way of creating multiple options is to run a contest on 99designs.

    We ran a 99designs contest for the PickFu logo. Below is one of the polls we ran:

    After several rounds of polling, the current PickFu logo with check marks and speech bubbles was chosen. We then ran more specific tests to decide on a winning color combination and tagline treatment, as below:

    When choosing your logo design, start with a wide swath of options. Then, as you are down to your finalists, run more specific tests to decide on design elements like color or type treatment.

    Here’s another example of a logo test where the basic design stayed consistent, but one type treatment won overwhelmingly:

    3. Target your core audience.

    If your product or service is aimed at a particular demographic group, then those people are the most important to your business. Use demographic targeting in your PickFu poll to reach the same kind of audience that your business aims to attract.

    Below, a men’s streetwear company was deciding on a logo. To run a better test, it targeted poll respondents who were male between the ages of 18 and 49.

    A sampling of the men’s responses:

  • “Option B’s logo looks better for men due to its angles and simplicity. The logo for Option A looks like a strange combination between fierce and feminine at the same time due to how the eyes curl upwards, almost like stylized eyelashes.”
  • “This logo is bold and will attract customers. It would make an impression for a clothing line. The outline and font make the logo clear and concise.”
  • “[Option] A reminds me too much of the Minnesota Timberwolves logo”

  • Keep these three tips in mind when deciding on your next logo, and if you’ve got additional helpful hints, please leave them in the comments!

    We created a video just for authors who might want to use PickFu. Well-known writers including Anne Janzer, Tim Grahl, and J.J. Salem have recommended PickFu to fellow publishers. Want to see why?

    Here are just a few ideas to get started on your next book:

    Book Titles

    A book’s title is how a potential reader finds your book, or how a satisfied reader talks about it to a friend. There’s so much to consider when titling your book. Read these tips, and create a list of possible names. Then, use PickFu to poll readers about what they find most compelling.

    Book Cover Designs

    Maybe we’re not supposed to, but we all judge a book by its cover. Don’t take chances when it comes to this key element in your book’s success. Work with a designer to create and iterate your jacket design. See how author Mike Fishbein overcame his personal biases and created a book title and cover that sold over 400 copies in the first ten days of its launch.

    Author Bios

    Your author bio should lend credibility to why a reader should buy your book. Explain your expertise on your book’s subject matter, or tout past writing accomplishments. Strike a balance between establishing yourself as a thought leader while making yourself and your writing seem approachable. Run a poll testing two or more versions of your “About the Author” copy. You can target respondents by age, gender, parental or marital status, and even preference for fiction or non-fiction. Poll respondents will read each version and tell you which one they prefer, and why.

    Descriptions/Blurbs

    After you’ve decided on a memorable title, tested the most effective subhead, and evaluated different cover options, don’t overlook your marketing copy. Your jacket blurb or online book description will turn reader interest into sales. Test your current blurb against one that’s more stylistic or uses a different tone of voice. Create a concise version to see if length makes a difference. Ask a third party, like an editor or a professional copywriter, to describe your book, so that you get an unbiased view. Any of these strategies may help improve book sales.

    See this example of a PickFu poll where readers clearly preferred one blurb over another.

    Author’s Note: What are the biggest marketing mistakes new authors make? Not using PickFu, obviously. But aside from that, listen to some of the leaders in self-publishing and avoid these errors.

    We recently created this new PickFu video specifically for mobile app companies. We’d love to hear what you think.

    Here are just a few of the ways leading apps are using PickFu to make intelligent decisions before going live in the App Store:

    Choosing App Names

    Naming an app is a crucial step in a successful launch. Not only does it need to be unique, include keywords, and make clear what your app does, but it also needs to entice users. See how game maker Mike Cowden decided on his app’s name, Super 80s World.

    Designing App Icons

    The icon is one of the most critical branding assets for a mobile app. To get the most from your app icon, leading app companies put their ideas to the test. For example, Airline Tycoon tested Android users aged 18-34 to see which of two icons they preferred. See the results!

    Making UI Decisions

    The user interface is the backbone of how your audience navigates your app. See how this mobile management game company used PickFu to make decisions about color scheme and layout.

    Creating Vivid Characters

    What characters do your players most want to be? Half of the top-grossing iOS strategy games have used PickFu to get user feedback on characters, gameplay, and more.

    Maximizing App Store Screenshots

    Changing your App Store screenshots means waiting for store approvals. Many apps prefer to save the time and perform pre-market, private testing using PickFu. With PickFu polls, you can see which screenshots best tell your app’s story and gauge user interest in downloading. Unearth any confusion or misconceptions about your app, and get ideas on how to improve.

    Amazon is the world’s largest bookstore, and if you’re an author, you need to make the most of your presence there. I spoke with several indie authors to get their advice on how to maximize your Amazon Author Central page.

    Personalize your URL

    Amazon Author Central gives you the option to customize your URL. Author Karen Dimmick calls this a “pretty link” which she uses to “easily send people directly to it.” Her personalized link http://amazon.com/author/karendimmick looks nicer than the auto-assigned https://www.amazon.com/Karen-Dimmick/e/B01E0BXITY (though both land you in the same place). Include your Amazon Author Central link in your email signature or on your business cards. Author Amber Fallon adds, “The best way to put your Amazon Author Central page to work for you is to make sure people know about it. Tweet it once in a while. Be sure to include [the link] on your website and your social media profiles.” Tyrone Givens notes that the “author dashboard has a very convenient button for sharing the link to the page.”

    Link Your Blog(s)

    You can link your blog’s RSS feed so that your Amazon Author Central page is automatically updated every time you post to your blog. This is a surefire way to keep your Author profile current. Richard Lowe advises, “if you have more than one [blog], and they are all relevant, connect them all.”

    Add Photos and Video

    Your main author photo should reinforce your brand and personality. “Use the same photo from your bio everywhere you appear, e.g. when you’re a guest on a podcast,” says Dimmick. “That way everything ties together.” Colette Tozer adds, “ensure the photo you post in your bio has personality. After all, the reader wants to get to know the author, so ensure that your picture paints an accurate picture.” You can (and should!) also add more photos and have some fun with them. This way your audience gets to know you a little better.

    Video is another interactive feature you should take advantage of. A book trailer, a narrated slideshow, or a reading or speaking engagement are all superb content to include as video. Stacy Brown showcases art from her coloring books as well as children interacting with them on her Author Central page. “I really like featuring videos and photos of my books on the Author page,” she says, “because it helps to sell the books more. Since some of the book listings are limited when you use CreateSpace, it’s nice to show more of the insides of the books or of happy little customers coloring in the books and reading!”

    Perfect Your Author Bio

    Your Amazon Author Central bio should reflect your whole body of work. While books in disparate genres or subject areas should have author biographies tailored to those genres or subjects, your Amazon page is a hub for your entire bibliography. Treat this block of text as marketing copy, a direct message from you to your readers. Keep in mind you will not be able to format this text using bold, italics, or hyperlinks. However, it is still a good idea to introduce readers to your website, blog, or social media channels.

    One way to hone your bio’s copy is to test it using PickFu. Upload two or more versions of your “About” copy, and run a poll. You can target respondents by age, gender, parental or marital status, and even preference for fiction or non-fiction. Poll respondents will read each version and tell you which one they prefer, and why.

    Add Events

    Whether in person or online, make sure to include any events you’re participating in. Doing so helps author Allison Fagundes “capture Amazon foot-traffic that otherwise hasn’t found me on my other social media platforms.” When the event has passed, Amazon removes it from your page automatically.

    Include Your Whole Catalogue

    “It’s very important to make sure your books are showing up! Sometimes Amazon doesn’t automatically link them,” says Holly Lyn Walrath. Include books that you’ve co-authored, too. You’ll find an “Add More Books” button on the Book Details tab to search for books you’ve written by title or ISBN.

    How do you bring the right people to your online store? How do you get them to stay? How do you set yourself apart from competitors?

    Many sites take advantage of pay-per-click advertising, social media channels, and search engine optimization to boost site traffic and sales. But on top of these tried-and-true strategies, what else can you do? I spoke to e-commerce site owners to get their advice on marketing opportunities you don’t want to miss.

    Diversify Your Channels

    Increase your store’s exposure by utilizing multiple storefronts like Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Bonanza, Shopify, ClickFunnels, and Rakuten. “The more people see your products, the better your chances of making a sale,” says Najeeullah Babar, President of specialty computer company interloper.com. However, he warns, “it can get very cumbersome and time-consuming to synchronize inventory across multiple marketplaces. Use a service like UploadMyProducts.com or ChannelAdvisor.com. You will breathe easy.”

    Adele RG Boese, owner of Etsy shop DerBayz Vintage, recommends Tweet Eye. “The site uses the RSS feed from my online store and schedules posts on Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest,” she explains. Overnight, she went from 10 visitors to over 300. “My sales started increasing and the traffic continued. I’ve introduced the channel to a number of other Etsy shops, and they all reported the same results.”

    Maximize Your Content

    “Rather than casting our products onto marketplaces and social sales channels to see who bites, this year we’re focusing internally to convert our respectable content traffic (about 15k-20k unique visitors/mo.) into buyers,” says Krista Fabregas, staff writer for Fit Small Business. “I think a lot of small businesses (like us) look outward to get more people in but forget that many opportunities are lost if you don’t turn 10+ years of traffic-driving content into selling tools. I guess you can say we’re making the most of our channel before focusing on other sales channels.”

    The vast majority of the site’s traffic comes from blog posts, so the company has worked to align content and product strategies — updating top blog posts to include targeted products. “Using WordPress with WooCommerce and Divi,” Fabregas says, “this is easy to do. So far, we’ve seen immediate upticks in sales in the target categories.”

    Video Is Content, Too

    “I run my family’s jewelry business and we do quite a bit online,” says Jeff Moriarty, Digital Marketing Manager at Moriarty’s Gem Art. The company’s efforts include banner ads, SEO, and email marketing. But the secret sauce? “Something that has paid off very well for us in video,” he says. “We do a lot of videos on YouTube to educate our buyers about gemstones and jewelry. While not exactly pushing to sell, it has turned into sales for us. It helps build trust, and then ultimately viewers decide to make their jewelry purchase with us.”

    Guess What? Photos Are Also Content!

    “One of the easiest ways for e-commerce businesses to market themselves online is to take lots of original imagery and allow others to use it,” advises Sam Williamson, Marketing Executive at A Hume Country Clothing. If you take a look at our site, you’ll see that we use original imagery for almost every single product that we have on our website, something that is very unique for an e-commerce website of our size. This in itself sets us apart from our competitors, but we also go a step further by allowing the images to be used elsewhere (provided that some kind of attribution is given back to us). This helps our images spread across the internet, gaining us more exposure.” Consider adding your original photography to Flickr or other Creative Commons sites.

    Speaking of photography, remember that a great image can dramatically affect sales. In a previous blog post, I interviewed Steve Chou, who found that changing the featured photo on one of his listings increased sales by 209%. Experiment with different featured shots to see if and how the needle moves. Use PickFu to poll audiences about what photos they find most attractive. In just minutes, you’ll have valuable feedback on how target customers react to your product photography.

    Influence the Influencers

    Stefanie Parks, founder of DermWarehouse, recommends providing free product samples to the right people. “We used Instagram’s hashtag search to find influencers. We knew our niche was people on Instagram that had between 5,000-20,000 followers. We used search terms like #beautyblogger and #parenthood to find people who would represent our brand well. We then sent them a direct message to try and solidify the relationship.” Once partnerships were established, the influencers spread the word about the company to their respective audiences, and DermWarehouse was able to use images of these influencers for online advertising campaigns.

    But influencer marketing doesn’t just mean millennials with mirrors. Mark Tyrol, President of Battic Door Energy Conservation Products, says his company targeted building code officials and architects. “We exhibited at a Building Code Officials trade show and expo and at an American Institute of Architects trade show and expo. We did this for two consecutive years. In addition, we contacted architects by direct mail with product literature and requested them to specify our products.” He reports that “as a direct result of our influencer marketing program, our sales have increased +50% in each of the last two years. We picked up dozens of new accounts that continually purchase products. Many customers tell us they were referred to us by their architect or code official, confirming the success of our program.”

    Recommend Replacement Links

    “Every day, millions of pages on the internet are deleted, outdated or lost,” says Max Robinson, Marketing Executive at Precious Little One. “A lot of these pages are product pages on e-commerce websites, which presents an opportunity for other e-commerce businesses to find these broken links and to offer their own link as a replacement. There are a few ways to do this – the way I do it is to find a competitor website and frequently run it through link checking tools like Xenu’s Link Sleuth to check for broken links. Any broken links I find, I then run through a tool like Ahrefs to see if anyone else is linking to them. This works very well!”

    Don’t Leave Out the Low-Tech Approach

    Colleen Lloyd-Roberts, owner of Top Notch Nail Files, offers a simple strategy. “Stickers go on the back of all our products, and it’s company policy that no product leaves the shipping area without one! The sticker has our website and toll-free order line on it. Those tiny stickers have proven to be a huge marketing tool over my 10 years of business, as we have received so many referrals and new business from people showing that sticker to friends and family who then go to our website and buy.”

    Do Something Warm and Fuzzy

    “When your customers know you are engaged with helping their community, they become more loyal and in some cases feel the obligation to give back themselves,” says Marc Joseph, CEO and President of DollarDays. “Our strongest give-back effort is through Facebook.” Each month, the site’s Facebook followers are encouraged to nominate a deserving organization to win a shopping spree. These monthly contests have revolving themes, like animal shelters, veterans’ groups, and teachers. DollarDays also offers a program similar to Amazon Smile, whereby customers can designate 5% of their purchase dollars to their favorite charity. “We believe that giving back is a win for our e-commerce business in creating a loyal following while at the same time helping to support their causes,” Joseph says.

    What other e-commerce marketing strategies do you recommend? Tell us in the comments!

    PickFu polls are popular among mobile app companies, self-publishing authors, and e-commerce businesses. But these pollsters may be missing out on a helpful strategy: testing creative in context.

    What does it mean to test something in context?

    In a previous life, I worked in an ad agency. Whenever we pitched an idea for a billboard, we would Photoshop the creative onto a billboard. If we were creating a website layout, we would show the layout in a web browser. Sometimes when we pitched a TV commercial, we would even take a frame from the storyboard and Photoshop it onto a screen.

    The same principle applies when you take a creative option, such an app icon, a book cover, or a featured photo, and test it using PickFu. You show that option in the context it will appear to the user, such as on a mobile device, on Amazon, or in a browser.

    Why contextual testing works

    The respondents to your PickFu poll are real-live human beings. Helping them visualize what you are testing means they can more effectively judge how your options will look when completed.

    Think about it: When you look at a recipe, you don’t generally see the finished dish floating in white space. You see it in a table setting. When you shop for a product, you often see a lifestyle image of that product in use — for example, a lamp sitting on a desk, a t-shirt worn on a body, or a car being driven on a road. These images help you visualize eating the food or using the products, and make you more likely to give it careful consideration.

    Testing in Context: Mobile Apps

    When testing possible mobile app icons, consider contextualizing your icon against on a home screen, or against competitors in your category. Doing so helps users picture the icons on their own phones.

    Fypio, a real estate app, used PickFu to test its icons. It placed the icon ideas on the iPhone lock screen and in a folder among similar apps. You can click the images below to see full poll results, including respondent comments and demographic breakdown.

    Testing in Context on a Lock Screen

    Testing in Context in a Folder

    A gaming company also used PickFu to test its mobile app icon in context and included a larger shot of the icon itself alongside the home screen.

    Testing in Context on the Home Screen, with Detail

    Mobile apps aren’t limited to testing icons, however. This game wanted to see how users felt about two UI options, so it contextualized those options on a phone.

    Testing in Context on a Phone

    These two mobile companies wanted to test a button design, so they placed them in the context of their other buttons so that users could judge the icons and buttons as a set.

    Testing in Context in a Set of Buttons

    Testing in Context in a Set of Buttons, Example 2

    In all these examples, poll respondents are better able to visualize how mobile app designs will look on a device. This may help yield even better insights on how to iterate and proceed.

    Testing in Context: Books

    Authors often use PickFu to test book covers. Displaying the cover designs in multiple formats, as the author below did, may help readers think about your designs where they’ll live – on an e-reader or in an Amazon store.

    Testing in Context for eBooks

    Since authors want to know what images seem most clickable, another idea is to test cover options among competitors in their Kindle categories.

    You could also mock up your cover designs to display how they might look in an Amazon listing.

    Testing in Context: Websites and E-commerce Stores

    Websites and e-commerce stores can also benefit from testing in context. Show interface designs in a web browser to help respondents visualize. Want proof that it’s a good idea? I googled “blank web browser” and came up with tons of image results from stock photo companies. Grab one for yourself the next time you test a layout.

    You can also test social media profiles in context, as this PickFu user did for an Instagram bio. By placing the bios in the context of its Instagram images, respondents can better judge what they like. Just remember that you should always only test one thing at a time, as this user did. By keeping the imagery the same, the only variable is the text of the bio.

    Testing in Context: Instagram bio

    Summary

    Testing in context helps users visualize your creative options as they will truly be seen, whether it’s online, on a mobile device, or among other images.

    Just like a recipe uses a table setting or a lifestyle image show a product in use, testing images in their context creates a more holistic experience for a poll respondent than an isolated image might.

    Mobile apps have a variety of ways to test images in context. It might mean showing a UI on a phone or displaying an icon on a home screen. You could also test icons or buttons in a set, such as in a file folder or among your already existing buttons.

    Self-publishing authors can test in context as well. Think about settings such as your Kindle listing or in related results to ensure your book cover truly stands out.

    Websites, e-commerce stores, and social media profiles can also be tested in context. Doing so gives the respondents helpful cues to understand your designs as they will ultimately be seen.

    One last thing

    I used PickFu because I couldn’t decide how to title this blog post. In less than 15 minutes, I knew what to do. Find out what respondents had to say about why the title “Why Testing Your Creative in Context Is a Smart Move” was the best of the bunch!

    When conducting a PickFu poll, one of the biggest benefits is accessing an audience of people who have no familiarity with your product, logo, book, or whatever it is you’re testing. They approach the question without bias… but as the poll creator, do you?

    Avoid these common mistakes and poll respondents will answer openly and honestly.

    Mistake 1. Leading words

    Your question may include a positive or negative bias — words that consciously or unconsciously lead the respondents toward a certain kind of answer.

    Examples:

    • How much did you enjoy this YouTube video? (positive bias – implies that the viewer enjoyed it, and leads respondents to answer more favorably)
    • Should responsible parents vaccinate their children? (puts respondents on the defensive by insinuating that parents who do not vaccinate are irresponsible)
    • A recent poll found 80% of Americans disagreed with this government policy. How unhappy are you about this policy? (negative bias – not only is the question phrased negatively, it also includes a statistic that shows many unfavorable views, leading the respondent to feel as though he or she should feel that way, too.)

    How to fix it

    Remove leading words and phrases and structure the questions as objectively as you can:

    On a scale of 1-5, with 1 being the worst and 5 being the best, please rate this YouTube video.
    • Do you think children’s vaccinations should be required?
    • Please rate your level of agreement with this government policy.

    Remember, biased questions lead to biased results. And if you’re using polling to make important business decisions, you want your feedback to be as objective as it can be.

    Mistake 2. Making assumptions

    Sometimes questions include an opinion. For example, “Do you agree that dog owners should be able to walk their dogs off-leash in the park?” This assumes that dog owners want to walk their dogs without leashes, which may or may not be true. But by including this assumption, you are leading more people to respond in agreement.

    Further examples:

    • Is your favorite color blue? (assumes the respondent’s favorite color is blue)
    • As long as nobody minds, is it okay to smoke indoors? (assumes that nobody minds)
    Where do you like to party? (assumes respondents like to party)

    How to fix it

    Structure your questions around facts, not opinions. Make sure you’re not painting respondents into a corner so that they can only answer one way. In the first example, it would be better to ask, “Do you think dog owners should be allowed to walk their dogs off-leash in the park?” Similarly, these questions eliminate assumptions:

    • What color do you like the best?
    • How do you feel about smoking indoors?
    • What do you like to do in the evenings?

    Mistake 3. The double-barreled question

    Sometimes questions ask about two disparate things. These double-barreled questions do not make good survey questions because respondents will often only concentrate on the one topic that means the most to them.

    Examples:

    • How do you feel about our two new flavors, French Vanilla and Hazelnut Cream?
    • How have teachers and students responded to the new dress code?
    • Which title and subtitle do you prefer?

    How to fix it

    Double-barreled questions should be separated into two distinct questions and polled separately from one another. When questions are worded similarly in a multi-question poll, it’s also good to distinguish them with underlined words or italics, as below:

    • How do you feel about our new flavor French Vanilla?
    • How do you feel about our new flavor Hazelnut Cream?
    • How have teachers responded to the new dress code?
    • How have students responded to the new dress code?
    • Which title do you prefer?
    • Which subtitle do you prefer?

    Creating better PickFu surveys

    PickFu focuses on preference testing. This means that in general, you’re testing options against one another, not necessarily open-ended or yes/no questions. Therefore, a question like “how do you feel about smoking indoors?” or “How have teachers responded to the new dress code?” likely wouldn’t get asked through a PickFu poll.

    That being said, the same rules apply to preference testing as in general surveying: avoid leading words, don’t make assumptions, and only ask about one thing at a time.

    For example, if you’re testing mobile app icons, the simplest unbiased question would be, “Which app icon do you prefer?” To embellish the question with anything else may introduce bias. Sometimes pollsters want to know whether their icons read a certain way, so they’ll ask something like, “Which icon seems more kid-friendly?” While not biased, per se, this question asks respondents to judge your icons differently than they might otherwise.

    Because PickFu respondents include comments, one approach to avoid any hint of bias is to ask the simple question, “Which app icon do you prefer?” and then read the comments to see if kid-friendliness is something the respondents took away by themselves, rather than being led to see kid-friendliness or not.

    Another approach is to include factual statements (unbiased, of course!) to explain what you’re testing, and then ask the respondent’s preference. For example, “Our app is a game aimed at children under 10. Which icon do you prefer?” These approaches may all yield various results, so some experimentation might be necessary to see what’s most applicable in your case.

    Keep it consistent

    Consistency is key in testing creative options. If you’re testing book covers, make sure that each design option includes the same information. If you tested two cover designs and each cover had a different title, for example, you wouldn’t know whether respondents preferred the design layout or the title on that design layout. Remember, only test one thing at a time.

    Below is an example of an author who tested two covers. However, the two titles are different, only one option included a subtitle, and only one option included the superfitdads logo. Any of these variances may have skewed the results.

    This poll would be less biased if each cover included the same title, subtitle, and author attribution. Then, the only test parameter would have been the cover design.

    Here’s a better example. This author is testing two cover designs. The title, subtitle, author attribution, and even graphic layout is the same. The only difference is the “Action Plan” stamp. By only testing one thing at one time, this author knows the stamp helps his cover.

    Summary

    In both general polling and preference testing, it is important to keep these main ideas in mind as you design your survey:

    1. Avoid leading words that may sway the responses positively or negatively. Phrase your question objectively.

    2. Ensure your questions are fact-based, not opinion-based. Do not make assumptions about your audience.

    3. Test only one thing at a time. Do not use double-barreled questions. When creating comparisons between two creative options, include only one test parameter per question, such as layout, title, or color palette.

    4. You may need to experiment with the level of specificity in your question. Generally, the simplest form of the question will be the least biased. However, there are instances where you will need to direct the question a certain way rather than leave it open-ended. Just be sure to do it according to the three tips above.

    What are the biggest and most common mistakes that new self-publishers should avoid? We reached out to three successful authorpreneurs to get advice.

    Writing might be the “easy” part

    “The biggest mistake self-published authors make is not approaching book publishing as a business, says “Inspiration to Creation” coach Nina Amir. “Many writers don’t realize that when they decide to self-publish, they become publishers. They open a publishing house. They enter into this endeavor eagerly because they are told it will be easy to self-publish, and they are surprised that they can’t just write, and that there is more to it than expected. They must carve out time to manage a team of designers and editors, pay taxes, promote, manage their publishing business’s finances, manage book sales, and more.”

    To avoid this problem, Amir advises that new authors “educate themselves on what indie publishing entails and approach self-publishing as a business. It’s also important to determine if they are cut out for self-publishing so they don’t get frustrated and give up.”

    Holly Brady, former director of the Stanford University Publishing Course, agrees. She warns that no one can truly “self” publish. “You may be a terrific writer,” she says, “but how good are you at design? Can you put together a killer cover? How about the interior? Are you ready to format your Word doc so that it’s got sequenced page numbers, headers, a title page, a copyright page? And are you willing to learn about the publishing industry? Do you know what a BISAC category is? Or how to get an ISBN number?”

    Brady offers this framework: “In truth, a savvy self-publisher is more like an independent filmmaker who gathers together a team of professionals in a creative endeavor. Those professionals apply their skills, bringing to life the filmmaker’s vision of the project. Think of yourself as the creative director of your own project, assess the skills you bring to the table, make a list of the skills you don’t have, and find people who can help you.”

    No two paths are alike

    Publishing consultant Anne Janzer warns, “New self-publishing authors risk being swamped by oceans of marketing and promotion advice. Ultimately,” she says, “you are the captain of your own ship, so approach promotion with that mindset. You know your core audience, your purpose in writing and publishing, and what you value. Filter advice through those objectives while maintaining a growth mindset.”

    Though knowing thyself is a guidepost, Janzer also advises that authors “test, refine, and learn, remembering that the activities that contribute to long-term success are things like building relationships, writing great books, providing value, and being generous.”

    Believing “The end” is really the end

    “The most difficult part of self-publishing is not getting your book designed or uploaded through Createspace and Kindle. It may not even be writing the book,” warns Brady. “The toughest part of the process for most authors is the marketing because so many of us are introverts.”

    Her advice? “As you finish your book and prepare to self-publish, keep a keen eye out for folks who know something about getting books into the hands of readers. Check out the blog posts of Jane Friedman, Joanna Penn, Penny Sansevieri, Frances Caballo, Nina Amir, and Shelley Hitz. And stop calling it marketing. What you’re really doing is building relationships around the content and ideas in your book. Go meet some like-minded people today.”

    What other advice would you offer to new self-publishers? Let us know in the comments!

    What are the best ways to promote your app in news outlets and in the App Stores? I spoke with app creators to get their advice.

    Timing is everything

    Philippe Levieux is the creator of infiltr, a photo filter app that has been named an Editors’ Choice, Best New App, and Hot this Week in the iTunes App Store, and featured in over 150 countries. Timing is the key to his advice. “Always release your app on a Thursday,” he says, because Features also change on Thursday. Or more precisely, “We always schedule infltr to be released on Wednesday at 11 pm UK time, so if the feature team wants to feature it, it is perfect timing.” He also recommends “to leverage the new technology (both software and hardware) that Apple releases!” For example, “we were the first app allowing you to filter Live Photos back in iOS 9; we were the first allowing you to capture filtered Live Photos in iOS 10; we were the first to fully use the camera in an iMessage App! We are available on iPhone, iPad, iMessage & Apple Watch.” Being first with new features that Apple releases is an almost surefire way to endear your app to Apple’s editors. For infiltr, Levieux says, “we make extensive use of 3D-touch through the app. We have a Today Widget and a Photo/Video & Live Photos Editing Extension… Apple loves these.”

    Speaking of timing…

    If your app is immediately ready to fill a need, it’s not only going to win customers but could also garner your app some juicy press coverage. Last year, when Microsoft acquired the app Sunrise Meet, it decided to integrate Sunrise’s features into Outlook and sunset the app (no pun intended). ThingThing, an iOS keyboard app, stepped into the void and added its own calendar scheduling feature to woo displaced Sunrise users. The gambit worked, leading the app to be featured in Techcrunch. “This was a big win for us in terms of downloads,” remarked Adam Davis, Thingthing’s CMO. “It really came down to being ready with the right technology – the right story – at the right time.”

    Localize

    Another way to get your app press attention is to localize it. “Categories you can be featured in are different in every country,” Levieux advises. For example, Canada’s App Store has a category for Apps translated into French. “Easy trick!” he says. Infiltr is available in 22 languages and has been featured on several of Apple’s official Twitter accounts, including those for Japan and Spain. “The cool thing when you get tweeted by Apple is that you get a special URL,” he says. “so we have these cool shortcuts which look more professional than the average App Store URL.” www.apple.co/infltr_, which Apple tweeted for example, directs to the Mexican App Store.

    Get the most from your email list

    George Hartley co-founded the art marketplace Bluethumb. The website grew popular with users, and he had a lengthy customer list at his disposal. When the Bluethumb iPhone app launched in 2013, Hartley used Intercom to segment his customer and artist lists into users who’d visited the site via an iPhone. “We pushed an email to our list on release,” he says, “and added a little header link to the apps on all our transactional and marketing emails. This was the extent of our marketing,” he says. But because the app’s release was so successful, Apple featured it a few weeks after release. Bluethumb is now Australia’s largest art marketplace.

    Celebrate milestones

    Alex Genadinik of Problemio.com took advantage of guest blogging when it came to milestones. When his app hit 150,000 downloads, for example, his guest blog got picked up by BusinessInsider and Yahoo! News.

    Respond to requests

    Another strategy Genadinik recommends is to subscribe to lists like HelpAReporterOut.com (HARO) and RadioGuestList.com. Both sites connect journalists and content creators with reputable sources for their stories, but RadioGuestList focuses on podcasts and radio shows in particular. When you see a query about a story you can add value to, write in and explain your expertise and give a short description of what your app does. Make sure your pitches are specifically related to the request and personalize your pitch to the news outlet.

    When it comes to e-commerce, anything that moves the needle up is a welcome change. I spoke with leaders from successful e-commerce sites to discuss site features that increased sales.

    Address Verification

    A surefire way to lose a customer is to have a package delivered to the wrong address. Using an address verification software such as Addressy or SmartyStreets saves that hassle. With address verification, the customer only needs to input a partial address, and valid postal addresses will be automatically suggested, saving time and improving the user experience. Having accurate addresses also helps the online seller, as error messages can be avoided and user-inputted spelling errors are eliminated. According to Natalie Green, marketing manager at PCA Predict, “this technology is used by thousands of global retailers around the world including L’Oreal, Lands’ End and Monkey Sports. Here’s an example of it in action on Dormify’s website. As the user types, the tool autocompletes the
    verified address – saving the customer from typing out the whole address.”

    Addressy’s address verification at work

    Payment Options

    Offering flexible ways to pay can help customers convert. Bob Ellis runs Bavarian Clockworks, a site that sells authentic German cuckoo clocks. He added PayPal Credit as a flexible payment option. “This can be an especially useful feature for e-commerce sites that sell high-end, expensive products,” he says. “Rather than having to pay a large lump sum, customers have the option to pay for a product they purchased over an extended period of time.” On Bavarian Clockworks, customers who choose PayPal Credit have six months interest-free to complete their payments, making checkout easier. And because it’s all run through PayPal, the e-commerce owner doesn’t have to manage payments.

    Customized Calculators

    Many e-commerce sites sell highly specialized or customized products. In this case, giving customers a convenient way to calculate costs will likely lead to more sales. Ostap Bosak manages Marquis Gardens, the largest retailer of water features and pond supplies in Toronto. He said, “it is sometimes tricky to estimate how much… one needs to build, repair, or expand a pond.” Therefore, the site added a Pond Calculator. Using only the pond’s size dimensions, customers can see over 20 different parameters to get a better idea of how much the project will cost.

    Similarly, Thexyz.com offers dedicated servers. According to Perry Toone, a member of Thexyz’s support team, the site was recently improved, allowing visitors “to custom build and configure every aspect of the setup process. The price of the server is adjusted in real time to give the most accurate price based on client specifications.”

    Email Capture

    Losing customers who abandon your site before they make a purchase? One way to get them back is to capture an email address before they leave. Bob Clary, Director of Online Engagement for Intellibright, recommends SumoMe. “It’s inexpensive but powerful, and it helps fill the top of your funnel with new leads,” he says. “It also connects with your major CRMs to let you trigger intelligent email automation programs.” And, as an added benefit, he says, it’s really easy to install.