A few months ago, Dave Chesson, creator of Kindlepreneur.com, received an email from Galaxy Press. Galaxy Press is the publishing company of famed sci-fi author L. Ron Hubbard, and the email asked for Dave’s help in writing a new book description for one of Hubbard’s most famous books, Battlefield Earth.

A step-by-step approach to writing a strong book description

Feeling honored, Dave approached the task methodically. First, he returned to basics and reviewed some trusted books and articles about what makes a good book description. Next, he scoured the web for book reviews, including professional blogs, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iTunes. “The best strategy for writing a description that makes people buy is not only knowing the book, but also finding out what people say was their favorite part of the book, and expanding on that,” he writes.Continue reading

There are many reasons to test your business name, but this might be the most compelling: names can influence destiny. Studies have linked a person’s first name with chosen career, company rank, even juvenile delinquency. For instance, one study claimed that if you are a woman with a gender-neutral name like Cameron, you may be more likely to succeed in a legal career. There’s even a fancy term for it: nominative determinism.

In business, shorter names are usually more memorable and distinctive than long ones. And, as one blogger observed, IPOs may be more likely with a name under 13 characters. A name that begins towards the start of the alphabet might place you towards the top in local or online lists.

Your business name can be evocative of the kinds of client you serve, your company mission, or what makes your business unique. No matter what imagery your company name is associated with, however, one thing is certain: your name is your calling card.

It’s no wonder Fortune 500 companies spend millions of dollars on studies and consultants when it comes time to name a business. But you don’t need millions to run a successful test. Follow these four tips and you’ll be well on your way to a winning business name.Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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.Continue reading

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.