Sunday, May 5, 2013

ASK PZM: May 2013 - Amazon Goodreads 2

Q: What elements comprise an effective book page on Amazon?

This is a very important question because we authors can control a great deal of what a prospective buyer sees on our book’s Amazon page – and we do ourselves a disservice if we neglect this marketing opportunity.

Let’s take an example of a Middle Grade novel whose Amazon page is not effective:

· The cover features only a dark design with no child on it.

· There is a somewhat generic title with no subtitle that could help indicate that this is a Middle Grade novel.

· Instead of an author first name that is personal the author uses the initial of her first name because she thinks this will attract more boys to the book.

· The photo on the Amazon Author Central profile lower down on the page is appropriate for a Cosmopolitan magazine cover and not for the author of a Middle Grade novel. (And this photo definitely is the opposite of using the initial of her first name.)

Do you see how these elements work against the target audience of people who read Middle Grade novels?  

I recently asked a children’s librarian at the Beverly Hills Library to select good Middle Grade novels.  I was doing research in connection with the release of my daughter Yael K. Miller’s Middle Grade novel JACK STROM AND NEW ORLEANS HOODOO.   

Most of the selected Middle Grade books had the protagonist on the cover, which makes sense if you want to attract a certain age of readers.
As for subtitles, I have been adding and revising subtitles to all my fiction books since I realized how important subtitles could be on fiction.  Amazon allows you to use subtitles as part of your book’s “title” – and this is a good way to signal what the book is about.  
As an example, I changed the subtitle on my novel MRS. LIEUTENANT from A SHARON GOLD NOVEL to A WOMEN’S FRIENDSHIP NOVEL because this now clearly signals what the novel is about.
And, in the era of social media, you want to use an author name and a photo that work together to help you connect with your target audiences.

Q:  Can you discuss the giveaway option on Goodreads?

Let me share my own recent experience:

Following the information in Michelle Campbell-Scott’s GOODREADS FOR AUTHORS: HOW TO USE GOODREADS TO PROMOTE YOUR BOOKS, I have now completed one Goodreads giveaway and started another one.

At this writing the giveaways can only be for physical books.  You can decide how many copies to give away, to which countries you are willing to mail, and how long the giveaway runs.

I tested the giveaway on a book I thought unlikely to interest many Goodreads members – HOW TO SUCCEED IN HIGH SCHOOL AND PREP FOR COLLEGE.  To counter that unlikely interest, I pitched the book as an 8th grade graduation gift.

(I chose that book because it really needs reviews on Amazon, and Goodreads giveaways are supposedly helpful for getting reviews from the winners.)
I ran the first giveaway for two weeks for U.S. and Canada Goodreads members.  I was pleasantly surprised that 453 people signed up to win one of the 10 copies offered.  
I had ordered the books from CreateSpace to be sent to me.  Then I bought mailing envelopes, signed the books and mailed the envelopes.
Whether the book gets any reviews, I definitely liked the opportunity of getting the book in front of tons of Goodreads members.  And I put a Goodreads giveaway widget on my website during the time period.

This second time I am doing things differently, including offering a book that already has lots of reviews on Amazon.  I am running the giveaway for a month for five copies of my women’s friendship novel MRS. LIEUTENANT only to U.S. Goodreads members.  I am going to send each one individually directly from CreateSpace (so no autographs).
One reason for sending directly is that MRS. LIEUTENANT is a much thicker book than HOW TO SUCCEED IN HIGH SCHOOL, and I do not want to wrestle with packing and shipping thick books.
If you go to my author website at – on the right-hand sidebar you will see the Goodreads widget for the MRS. LIEUTENANT giveaway.  If you are a Goodreads member, you can click through on the widget to enter the giveaway.
To do a Goodreads giveaway for your own books, you must be a Goodreads member first and then get a Goodreads author designation.  Signing up for the giveaway is relatively easy, and then you must wait for your giveaway to be approved.  But there is no charge from Goodreads to utilize this opportunity of getting your books in front of dedicated book readers.

In Michelle Campbell-Scott’s book she recommends that, if you have a book that is only an ebook, you get physical copies made just to be able to utilize the Goodreads giveaway opportunity.  In fact, I am planning on taking her advice and doing this for some of my books that are currently only ebooks.
Even with my limited experience so far with this opportunity, I recommend you try Goodreads giveaways for yourself.  

Q: What do you think of publishing short stories on Kindle?

Obviously a collection of short stories would be the same as a book.  But let me suggest one use of a stand-alone short story that I am trying myself:
Publish a short story that is a “brand extension” of a current novel.  You can then use this short story to introduce people to one or more characters in the novel.
For example, my novel MRS. LIEUTENANT takes place in 1970 and features the POV of four very different army wives.  I took a background paragraph about one of the women – the Puerto Rican Donna – and created a YA short story set in 1964 when Donna enters 10th grade at Ft. Knox.  (See the ebook on Kindle at )

P.S.  I do NOT plan to create a physical booklet of this story in order to utilize a Goodsreads giveaway for it.

Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the author of fiction and nonfiction books, including TOP TIPS FOR HOW TO PUBLISH AND MARKET YOUR BOOK IN THE AGE OF AMAZON.  You can see all her books at and find her on Goodreads at

She also writes about book-related topics at her author website at and is the co-founder of the online marketing company

*If you have a question for Phyllis, drop me a line at cluculzwriter at yahoo dot ca and I'll make sure she gets it. *


  1. My publisher did a giveaway for my next book on Goodreads and I was happy when almost seven hundred signed up to win one of the five copies. (And many added it to their shelves to read.)

  2. Great advice-- you brought up a lot of good things to consider in this process. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Great tips. I had a giggle at the section about things that are done wrong ;)

  4. Love this. I still can't believe that people haven't caught on to the fact that the cover is one of the most important things that readers look at when making buying decisions. I don't know how many experts have said it in many different ways! Thanks for the tips, Phyllis. :) I had a blast doing a GR giveaway myself, and will definitely be doing them again.

    1. I remember when you did that. Yikes I should be doing something along those lines... later. LOL. Thanks, Sandhya.

  5. Thanks so much to both of you for the great advice! :)

  6. Lots of great advice! MANY thanks for sharing! I've been looking more and more at CreateSpace so particularly zeroed in on what you've done (as the goal has been to combine my novellas into a trilogy). I dropped my Goodreads account because it consumed too much time, basically.

    Joylene, thanks for your offer. I'm going to return to some research links to send you so you'll have a clearer idea of where I'd like to go as I'm too computer illiterate to translate that stuff. But I'm pretty sure this 'path' on Amazon is a big deal.

    Well, thank God April is over and the major pre-move initiative is over. I was so tired last night I went to bed at eight and awoke to the sounds of birds chirping this a.m. Ahhh, nice. Now about those sore muscles I didn't know I had, LOL!

    How's your house coming? Hmm, have you considered Southby's? From the photos you posted, it's perfect, and Southby's would hit our market . . . I think you have a law that we can no longer buy vacant land but I don't think that appeals to houses. Yep, I'm sending out vibes so you can sell and move on . . .

    1. Thanks for the Southby's mention, Kittie. I've never heard of it, but I'll definitely going to check it out. Thanks you for your good vibes, Kittie. You are a sweetheart.

  7. Hi Joylene and Phyllis - it's so essential to be on top of everything as regards one's work/s ... if we do the hard work of writing in the first place, and then being published or getting published ... then do all we can to market and promote our book ... correctly.

    The blogosphere and internet offer lots of great info .. and sticking within this group of bloggers, many of whom are authors, there's so much sensible advice around ..

    Do it right .. all the way along the writing and publishing route.

    Cheers to you both .. Hilary

    1. Cheers to you too, Hilary. Thanks for being such a great inspiration.

  8. As always, lots of interesting information to digest, thanks. Covers are what first draw me to a book when I'm browsing, and I can't believe how many authors, especially self-published ones, don't seem to recognize the disservice done to them by poorly designed covers.

    1. I think that's why I'm so encouraged by how many stunning covers they're producing each day. Thanks, Carol!

  9. Hey Joylene!

    Once again, a highly informative article by Phyllis. To keep this brief and allude to one point, the author I worked in the background with was pleased with his book cover. I didn't think it was eye-catching enough. Still, we shall see what happens. I would still like to think that you can't judge a book by its cover.

    And no mention of the Canucks. Oops...


    1. Oops is right! I'm just now getting over their loss. BooHoo! And dang it!

      Thanks for visiting and adding your support, Gary!

  10. Please tell me I'm not the only one who laughed at The Long Journey of Mr. Poop's cover. LOL

    My publisher ran a giveaway for Strength last month, and I think it did pretty well. 821 people entered on Goodreads. I'm not sure if many of them added it to their TBR lists, but it was nice to see some interest! :)

    1. Carrie, that's good to hear. I know I need to do something to generate interest for my books. Thanks for letting me know.

  11. Walter the Farting Dog has potential hahaha! I'll check out the Goodreads book as I'll be doing some promoting this summer.

    1. That sounds great, Stephen. Thanks for stopping by~!

  12. Walter the Farting Dog sounds right up my alley ... being the child that I am!

    Excellent post :)


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