This is a leeeeeeetle bit of a rant so please excuse me :-) Whenever I'm interested in a book, the first thing I do is to have a look for it on our website. It doesn't matter if I hear about it from social media, a newspaper, from my kids, wherever; I hear about a book, I want to find out more. The sad truth is, it's not as easy as it should be or sometimes the book information just isn't working hard enough. Most of this boils down to one key action, check out your book on multiple retailers but well, the devil as always is in the detail. I write this fully acknowledging that our own Toppsta Search is not as good as say Amazon but well...they do have a slightly bigger team and budgets :-D
I know as authors and illustrators it often feels as if the retailers have all the power, or you need big budgets to get the word out there, but there are so many things that you can do to help make your books stand out. This is meant to be a handy checklist for anyone and everyone trying to help readers find their books.
1. Don't just check Amazon
Seriously. Please. Pretty please? Amazon take their own feed, so things can look AMAZING on Amazon but terrible elsewhere. Toppsta take a feed from Nielsen, which also feeds other websites such as Waterstones and Wordery and many, many others. Your book may be displaying beautifully on Amazon and we could have a really lovely debate about whose responsibility it is that items haven't fed through to Toppsta/Waterstones/Wordery but I have looked up 5 titles this morning and 2 of those were missing their covers, another their description. Readers don't buy books if they can't see the cover and description.
2. What level of subscription do you have with Nielsen?
Only certain levels of subscription includes showing your book description on 3rd party sites. Check your subscription package. Cards on the table, I don't know how much the levels of subscription are but there are very few readers who will buy a book without being able to read a description...
3. Can you read the cover as a thumbnail?
Ok, there's a step before this, is the cover actually showing on Toppsta/Waterstones/Wordery but I think I've covered this in point 1. The next step is, is that beautiful cover which works so well on a printed book, still legible as a thumbnail? Some books have two covers, one on the printed copy and a slightly simpler one provided as a thumbnail via Nielsen. Win Win.
4. Have you provided the author and illustrator names correctly and consistently?
The #picturesmeanbusiness campaign has done a lot to raise the profile of illustrators so missing illustrator names is less of a problem than it used to be but it's worth double checking how you're providing names. Is it "JK Rowling" or "J.K. Rowling" or "J K Rowling" ok clearly Bloomsbury will be checking this particular author name like no other but you see my point? Every one of those names will link through to a different author page with their books. If you're spelling the names differently, those books won't appear with other books by the author. Also, if the author is also the illustrator, have you put the name in both fields so that people can see that the book is illustrated, otherwise how are readers meant to know that that book is illustrated?
5. Understand the implications of changing the title
I get it, sometimes titles change but for many websites if you update the title, any links from website articles linking to that page may break. So if Toppsta creates a blog post and links to the book page www.toppsta.com/nameofthebook then if you change the book title to www.toppsta.com/Ivechangedthen... then our links won't work. Just something to consider.
6. How does the title look if viewed on a phone?
So if you call your title "Series Name, Book 1: The Lost Treasure" then you may find on a phone it is truncated to "Series Name, Book..." then imagine you're searching for the series name on a mobile device, all you will see will be
"Series Name, Book..."
"Series Name, Book..."
"Series Name, Book..."
Much better to have the name of the book at the start of the title e.g.
"The Lost Treasure, Book 1, Series Name"
Still with me?
7. Is the book part of a series and if so, has the series name been included in the metadata?
Again, if a book is part of a series, then if you click on the series name, those books in the series will appear together. But if you don't provide a series name then that book will look like a standalone and will be all lonely, out on a limb. Readers who land on this page may never know that there are other titles in the series that they might also enjoy. There's a separate issue here in how series data is provided to Nielsen. I once downloaded a file of 10,000 book metadata fields and discovered over 400 different ways that providers were indicating book 1 ie "book 1", "Book 1", "Bk 1", "Book 1.", "Book #1" etc etc unfortunately everyone seems to be provide this data differently making any accurate series information a very manual process (which we're currently attempting to address).
8. What are the 3 key things about this book?
I'm guilty of this myself but it's all too easy, when you have the book in front of you, to focus on the story, the writing, the impression it left on you. This is what we all love about books. But actually, for someone who isn't familiar with the title, just a few simple details can really help. Is it a picture book? Is it illustrated? Is it funny? Is it an adventure? Is it scary? That big puppet in the front cover, might be worth mentioning...or the big fold out map? Start with the basics before diving into the story.
9. Does your children's book have a BIC/BISAC/Thema classification for Children's?
Yep, not a joke, this comes up sometimes. A brilliant book for children, just released. Except it's classified in Adult Reference to ensure breadth of coverage. Ok, I'm with you...sort of... but it does mean that it won't appear in the Children's section of a website, or in the Children's Chart or actually, on websites like Toppsta who only take the "Children's section" of the Nielsen feed. Check your classification. My understanding is that a book can have two category classifications (though you'd need to check that, sorry!).
10. Get some reviews and USE those reviews
Ok, I wasn't sure if I was going to include this one because clearly we're all about the reviews. But anyone can review ANY book on Toppsta. You don't need to run a giveaway to get reviews. And reviews do make a difference. It provides extra context to the description and the truth is that other peoples' opinions count. Get some reviews and use the reviews in the second print run, in the AIs, on your blog, in your Nielsen feed, use them in posts on social media and TELL THE WORLD that other people think your book is awesome!
Ok, now...tell me all about that brilliant marketing campaign you've got planned?