I flew into New York City this morning, took a cab to the Sheraton on 53rd, then went out and grabbed a slice of pizza at a local joint. I always love how places outside NY advertise “New York” pizza. I grew up in da’ Bronx and know NY pizza. I loved the rant Jon Stewart did on Trump eating pizza with a knife and fork. I even went into a pizza place one time in Seattle while at the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference and asked for a slice. And they told me “We don’t do slices.” I mean WTF kind of pizza joint doesn’t do slices?
Anyway, then I went inside, still eating my slice and sat in on a workshop on SEO. There were a lot of industry people from publishing there since, after all, we’re in New York City, the home of publishing.
I have mixed feelings about conferences. Sometimes they can be mind-numbing. Other times they can be very exciting. But I find in the long run both extremes pull together towards useful. Even when they’re sort of mind-numbing, they stir the brain. As a fiction writer one of my favorite sayings is “take it one step further”. And another is: “What if what appears to be; isn’t.” The latter comes more from my time in the Special Forces. We were a tad paranoid. But you aint paranoid when they are out to get you.
Which brings me to the topic of analytics. The panel was “You can’t grow what you can’t measure.” Hmm. I’m not sure about that. Sometimes we become so enamored with numbers, we forget a key question: what do they really represent? I think of Snakes on a Plane. Tremendous internet buzz. Then when it came out, tanked. In Special Forces (YouTube video from appearance on Discovery ref the Green Berets) we knew there was a big difference between information and intelligence. The latter is usable information.
I was a bit surprised during the sessions I attended on how basic a lot of the information being put out was and how basic many of the questions were.
But here is some of the information (along with a few comments); make what intelligence of it you wish:
There was a lot of focus on click throughs. I get that you’d want people to actually go to your site and look at what you have, but I think (anecdata without even an anec or a data) that just having the cover on the side of a Facebook or Google page a couple hundred thousand times with only 20 clicks, still has reach. That image is in the corner of the eye. It penetrates the subconscious. And most of the time nothing happens. But say that person sees that cover or that author name again, somewhere else? There will be a connection. Presence marketing.
An interesting slide from the SEO session was how important it is to rank in the top three results on a google search of your keywords. Because people click on choice one 36.4% of the time, choice two 12.5% and choice three 9.5%. That’s hmm, 58.4% of people gone before they get to #4.
But Jen Talty covered all this in our upcoming The Shelfless Book: The Complete Digital Author (pre-order you copy NOW!). After I came back from Storyworld, the West Coast cousin to #DBW12 we focused on metadata.
Google also own 80% of the SEO market share. However, Bing has now passed Yahoo as a search engine.
Some other points made: use your keywords over and over in the body of your text also. Bob Mayer. And use links. A lotta links. Bob Mayer. An interesting thing we need to check into is that you can use keywords for images inserted into a WordPress blog (Jen just told me when she loads blogs here she puts in a description for the image). Also, the more time people spent on your page, the higher Google ranks it. So go get a beer, this will still be here when you get back. Even better, just leave this page on your screen when you go to bed? Hmm.
Any of you heard of pinterest? It’s supposed to be the hot new thing. I sent Jen the link. She signed right up, though is still waiting for her “invite”. What do you think if you’re using it?
One thing I realized, again, is that because I wear so many hats: author, publisher, promoter, crossbow firer, consigliore to Riley (my three week old grandson) the future leader of the resistance, servant to hardworking guard dogs Cool Gus and Sassy Becca, I have a big perspective on this whole digital book experience. I still get the feeling that experts are, well experts. Very good at what they do, but not exactly sure at times how their expertise helps the big picture.
I’ve got to go over my notes and then process them with a full day tomorrow and I’ll blog again. I did get some interesting ideas “taking it one step further”. Jen is waiting on the edge of her seat for my ideas. I think I’ll make her wait a little longer.
It’s weird, I keep hearing military terms in the civilian world and it kind of, well, I don’t know what it makes me feel. Don Cheadle in House of Lies used HALO, which stands for High Altitude Low Opening Parachuting. Special Forces runs the military’s HALO school at Ft. Bragg, which is now only 60 miles down the road from my new abode. I also use it in Who Dares Wins by that guy Bob Mayer, and Write It Forward, by that guy, Bob Mayer who works with that girl…what’s her name? Oh yeah, Jen Talty. But to hear people use it who have never done it, is strange. BTW, that’s a wickedly good show. Right up there with The Good Wife and Southland. We all need a touch of reality. And yes, I’m watching Downton Abbey too and it’s damn good. And then there’s Raising Hope, which is on the lighter side and we all need that too.
Oh, yeah, as promised, FREE eBooks. Two of the Black Ops series: The Line and The Gate, will be free on Kindle for the next three days (that’s Toosday, Wendssday and Thoisday in the Bronx). So go snark ‘em up. (You do know you don’t need to own a Kindle to read a Kindle book, right? It’s an app.)
The Line received some really cool reviews and also got me banned from the Association of Graduate’s Magazine book reviews at West Point:
“Mayer has crafted a military thriller in the tradition of John Grisham’s The Firm.” Kirkus
“So convincing, that by the last page, readers may doubt the official version of the last 50 years.” Publishers Weekly
I used to pitch it as an updated Seven Days in May. Until I gave the keynote at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference and asked how many people had read or seen Seven Days and not one in 500 people raised their hands. Oops.
The Gate, I based on a book I picked up in the nonfiction section of the library at Ft. Campbell called Japan’s Secret War. The author claims there’s a chance the Japanese detonated an atomic bomb at the end of World War II in Manchuria. His evidence is spotty, but it is true the Germans sent two U-Boats with their uranium to Japan near the end of WWII. So it got me thinking and I took it one step further and asked: What if they did do that, but there were two bombs? And where is the second one? And . . .
Well, you can read the free book to find out the rest.
That’s my name (Bob Mayer) repeated how many times in this post? And how many links? And how many left this page live overnight? Come on, Google. Of course, the machine probably didn’t like me referring to the future leader of the resistance against the Rise of the Machines.
I think I just linked myself into a visit from a guy with sunglasses.
Write It Forward!
A good cover can make or break a book, especially for on-line buying. In a bookstore, most books are racked spine out, so author name sometimes means more. Readers can pick up your book, thumb through, get a feel for story and writing and then decide. On-line, readers see your cover. It has to say, “buy me, I’m a good book” to the reader. If it doesn’t, why would they take the time to possibly download a sample, or even look at product description? The changes in publishing have given the author many great opportunities and self-publishing is a viable option. However, self-publishing requires the author to make a few major decisions, and one of those decisions is cover.
You have a couple of options. You can do it yourself or your can hire a cover artist. There are many programs out there to choose from. There are many do it yourself programs, free programs, even programs that come with your computer that can create cover design. Even Word has the capability of designing a basic cover, but will the cover be good enough to invite the reader in? The question you have to ask yourself is it worth your time and energy to do it “right”. Hiring someone to do your covers can run as low as $50.00 and as high as $600.00.
This is not an easy decision, especially when you factor in other costs that go into making an eBook available to the reader. We made the decision to invest in the proper tools to do it ourselves because we had the design background, and the technical ability. We purchased the complete InDesign package from Adobe ($1,299.00) partly for the ability to create covers for on-line purchasing, but also because it made it much easier to create the full-jacket cover for our print-on-demand books and for web design.
Even with the proper tools we made a few cover mistakes along the way.
Publishing Mistake #1: Always Judge a Book by its Cover.
This cover sucks. Actually, every single one of the original Atlantis Covers was a disaster except for Assault on Atlantis, which remained almost identical as the original. So why does it suck and why did it make sense to change?
First. It’s too dark. I don’t mean color scheme because you can have a black cover that isn’t bad, but this cover lacks contrast. The color scheme is too similar. The letters and background blend together. If you have a dark background, you want letters that stand out. If you have a light background, you want letters that will pop.
Second. Do you know what the object is in the background? I know Bob does. I’m not going to tell you. You all can guess. Though, if you read the book, you probably know. Point is, what does this cover mean to the reader? I say this cover almost says pass me by.
Third. Logo. Wow. What were we thinking? I know we thought we were being brilliant when we put our very first logo on all our covers for them to stick out like a sore thumb. For those observant readers, you will notice here at Write It Forward we now have a new header. That look will be added to the Who Dares Wins Publishing website. I’ll get into that change in another publishing lesson. The point here is that the logo adds absolutely nothing to the cover. As a matter of fact, it takes a way from the already bad cover, making it worse.
If you were in traditional publishing it would be too bad, suck it up, go promote it’s the only cover you’re going to get. If you had hired someone, you’re be paying them to redo it. If you did it yourself, you’d be redoing it.
So what is best? I recommended if you don’t have the knowledge of basic design and design programs (for example how layers work) then hire someone. It’s why I do the covers and Bob doesn’t.
Publishing Correction #1.
First. It has contrast. The color of the letters, while still complement the background, are bold and pop of the page. The background is vibrant and alive. It’s inviting. It doesn’t look dark and drab and boring. Yet, it is a very simple cover. Simple is often better.
Second. The cover says something about the book. Actually, it says something about the entire series, which involves the Bermuda Triangle, the Devil’s Sea and other strange and eerie places. It invites the reader to take a look inside and see if they are interested in the content. This is critical regardless of whether you are in a store thumbing through all the books in this particular section, or browsing on line trying to find a good read. A good cover can make or break you. We found when we changed the cover, our sales improved.
Third. No distracting white rectangle that means nothing to the reader.
While editing this post, I realized this cover still has one minor flaw. Every thing is centered. We’ve learned that alignment is another aspect you need to consider when designing a cover. Is it time to change it? No.
Publishing Lesson #1.
There is a time when it’s best to leave well enough alone. For a long time the first cover was it. It wasn’t until I had finished with the 6th and final cover in this series that we realized we had a problem. Not all of the books were in print at that time. We knew that it would cost us to make the upgrade and the book had already earned out and beyond. Our business had grown and we had a different set of tools to work with, specifically InDesign by Adobe which allowed me to create covers that I didn’t have the capability before. After much discussion, we began the revamping process. It took at least 6 more tries before we got to this one. Change was necessary, and unlike traditional publishing when it comes to covers after book release, non-traditional publishing allows us to make this change. However, timing is important as well as not rushing things. We had to get it right, and this time we did.
This brings me to a question for all our readers out there. The Bodyguard of Lies cover has gotten some negative feedback. Some readers thought the cover was boring. Too simple. We were aiming for simple and we wanted it to match the Lost Girls cover, which so far, I haven’t heard anything negative regarding Lost Girls. So my question to you is, is it time for us to change this cover? Don’t hold back. Tell us what you think.
Write It Forward!