Using YASIV to understand your market and improve your marketing

YASIV is a free tool that allows you to look at the popularity of and connections between books based on reader purchases on Amazon.

YASIV stands for “Yet Another Similar Items Visualization.”

What exactly does this tool do?

Here’s a screenshot to help illustrate why this is so cool. I searched for The Faerie Summer, a bundle I curated. This image shows all of the products that are related to this book – also-boughts (other titles a reader purchased in addition to this one) and titles they bought that are related to the also-boughts. If you click on this image you can see the live version of the same search.

It is a little hard to make out any of the covers in that screenshot, but here are some interesting things that I can see at first glance.

  • All five of the bundles I’ve curated are linked to one another, as are two of the other bundles I’ve been in, and the witch-themed novelette I published last year.
  • The third bundle I’ve participated in so far does not show up as linked. I drilled down and found it’s only connected to one other title.
  • My first novel links to zero other titles. πŸ™‚
  • A lot of the links are to titles by authors who’ve had stories in these bundles.

That’s all cool, if unsurprising. But there’s quite a bit more that jumps out at a closer look.

  • A lot of the titles The Faerie Summer links to are box sets.
  • The Haunted bundle links to a cluster of spooky/horror stories.
  • Drilling down on the Beneath the Waves bundle, it turns out to link to part of that same cluster.

I stopped at that point because I could easily spend hours looking up books, but that should give you a feel for what the tool does.

How to look up a title

Go to YASIV, then enter either the name or the ASIN of the book you want to look up.

Note that I have ‘Book’ selected as the category. You can also select ‘Kindle Store’ or any other category used by Amazon. (I looked up the elephant-shaped funnel I bought recently, and discovered a lot of people who bought it also bought squeeze bottles.)

Ways you can use YASIV to improve your own marketing

Research the books connected to your book, and look up bestselling books in your genre, or books that are similar to what you’re writing.

  • Are there things that stand out?
  • Do the covers have a common look and feel?
  • Is the average price point drastically different from your book’s price?
  • Does looking at these titles change your mind about how your book should be marketed?
  • Can you use the other titles, text from their sales copy, etc. as keywords for your own books?
  • How does your sales copy sound next to that of the other titles?
  • What categories are these titles in, and should you modify your own categories?

There’s a lot you can do with this tool – these are just a few suggestions to get you started.

References

Configure your Instafreebie author profile

Instafreebie allows you to run giveaways while collecting email addresses from everyone who enters a giveaway. Authors can also team up and put together group giveaways.

Your authro p

One nifty feature of Instafreebie is that your author profile page exists even if you don’t have an active giveaway – and you can create your profile without creating a giveaway. This gives potential readers one more way to find you.

Prerequisites

You already have an Instafreebie account – either paid or free.

If you don’t have one, it’s very simple to sign up. Just go to Instafreebie and walk through the steps to create an account.

How to configure your author page

  • Log in to Instafreebie, then select ‘Dashboard’ from the top menu bar. Near the bottom of the right sidebar, Look for the Author Page section and click the ‘Edit’ button.
     
    You can get to the same page by clicking on the dropdown on the top right-hand corner of the screen, and then select ‘Settings.’
  •  
    You’ll see something like this.
     

     

  • There are two areas to customize: Pen Names (which includes author profiles), and User Image. Click on the appropriate link to modify each.
     
    Pen Names/Profiles

    • Click on the ‘Edit’ button next to your name and profile page URL.
       
    • In the edit section, you can modify your name, profile image, Instafreebie URL, etc.
       
      For your URL, note that you can only set it once – after that it’s fixed.
       

     
    If you write under more than one name, you can add and customize a pen name/profile for each name. Note that the free plan limits you to only one pen name/profile.

    User Image

    This image can be the same as the one you set for your pen name, but it’s used slightly differently. This one is shown on your forum posts, and group giveaway comments.
     

Make sure to take a look at your profile page, using the URL listed in the Pen Names/Profiles section, to make sure everything looks as expected.

References

Add a border to an image in Photoshop

Here’s an example of a situation where you might want a border around an image…

This is the very first book cover I ever designed. I spent hours and hours picking the artwork, font, and colors, ordered a paperback proof, made even more tweaks, and then I finally published it. I’m not sure how long it took me to realize that the fact that there was no border around the image meant the cover blended in to the nice, white background of its sales page. Oops…

Prerequisites

  • You have Photoshop.
  • You have an existing image in a psd file.

How to add a border around your image

These instructions will place a border on top of the existing image, like a picture frame where the frame covers part of the picture. If you’d instead like to have a border but not cover any of your image, you can resize the image or canvas size and then add the border.

Note that this is only one of the many ways to add a border to an image.

  • From the top menu bar, choose ‘Select’ and then click on ‘All’. A line of moving dots will appear at the edges of your image. This line is often referred to as the β€˜marching ants’ because it looks like a bunch of tiny, electronic ants are walking around your selection.
  • From the top menu bar, choose ‘Edit’ and then ‘Stroke.’ A dialog box will pop up.
     

     
  • Select the desired color and width, but leave the location set to center. (See below for examples using different widths.)
  • From the top menu bar, choose ‘Select’ and then ‘Deselect’.

These instructions also work to put a border around a layer – the only difference is that you should select the layer, not ‘All’.

Examples of different border widths

After experimenting with border sizes, I went with a 2px black border. Anything thicker than that looked a little too hefty on some of the platforms I tested it out on.
 
Here’s how it looks on Amazon.
 

 
For comparison, here’s the same cover with no border, then 2px, 10px, 20px, 30px, and 40px.

I didn’t resize the canvas/image, so if you look closely you’ll see that as the width of the border increases, it covers that much more of the image. That’s easy to fix, just remember to keep this in mind.

Photoshop version

The version of Photoshop used for this post was the 2017.1.1 Release of Adobe Photoshop CC, 20170425.r.252 x64, on OS X 10.10.5.

Making a background transparent in Photoshop

There are lots of reasons why you might want to make the background of an image transparent.

Perhaps you have an image with a white background that normally appears on a white page, but you know it might appear on a page where the background is gray. Or maybe you’re combining multiple images into one, and you need to remove the original backgrounds in order to make the result look seamless.

For the cover for “To Be a Monster,” I combined two different images: one was a drawing of a Greek ship, and the other a drawing of an octopus.

The octopus image originally had a white background; I made the background transparent so that I could work just with the octopus itself, not the blocked-out rectangle. Then I was able to drag the octopus around, moving it pixel by pixel, until I found the right spot for it.

I could have changed the background from white to black, but then would have had to be careful that I didn’t accidentally cover up a corner of the ship with the black portion of the image.

Prerequisites

  • You have Photoshop.
  • The background of your image is a solid color.
  • Your image is stored in a layer in a psd file.

How to make a background transparent

To illustrate how this works, I’ll use this lovely image I created. πŸ™‚

  • Select New/Layer/Layer From Background.
  • Select the Magic Wand Tool from the left panel in Photoshop.
  • Click on the image area you want to be transparent using the Magic Wand Tool. A line of moving dots will appear around your image and the edges of the layer, depending on where your image is. This line is often referred to as the ‘marching ants’ because it looks like a bunch of tiny, electronic ants are walking around your selection.
  • Once selected, click ‘Delete’ on your keyboard.
     
    The solid background color will disappear, and will be replaced by a white and gray checkerboard pattern. This is to indicate that there is nothing in the image where that pattern appears.
     

There are other variants that will achieve the same result as well. πŸ™‚

Photoshop version

The version of Photoshop used for this post was the 2017.1.1 Release of Adobe Photoshop CC, 20170425.r.252 x64, on OS X 10.10.5.

Manage your Instagram account via your Facebook page

Managing your Instagram account via your Facebook page links your two accounts.

Note that it does not mean your Instagram posts will show up on Facebook – that’s a completely separate topic.

Prerequisites

  • You have an existing Facebook page (note that you must be an admin or editor of this page).
  • You have an existing Instagram account.

Why set this up?

Allowing your Instagram account to be managed via your Facebook page gives you the ability to do the following from Facebook:

  • Edit your Instagram account details.
  • Manage comments on your Instagram posts. This means that comments will show up in your Facebook Notifications, and if you’re using the ‘New Inbox’ on Facebook, you’ll see something like this where you can quickly go to messages sent via Messenger, comments posted on Facebook, or comments on your Instagram photos.
     
    Here’s a peek at how easy it is to distinguish between post types using Facebook’s new inbox.
     

     
    You can also manage comments via the Pages Manager app, which is available from Apple’s app store and the Google play store.
     
  • Create and manage Instagram ads.

How to manage your Instagram account via your Facebook page

  • Go to your Facebook page and click Settings in the top right-hand corner.
     
  • Click on “Instagram” in the left-hand sidebar. The Instagram management options will appear on the right side of the screen.
     

     

    • To connect your Instagram account:
       
      Click on “Log in,” enter your Instagram account details in the pop-up window, then click “Log in.”
       

       
    • To edit your Instagram details:
       
      Click “Edit,” modify your Instagram details, then click “Save.”
       
    • To disconnect your Instagram account from your Facebook page:
       
      Click the “Disconnect” button at the bottom of the screen.

References

Adding a Goodreads books widget to your author website

This is a simple way to add a Goodreads widget to your author website.

Prerequisites

You already have a Goodreads author profile, and have at least one book associated with your profile.

JavaScript must be supported by your website’s software.

What’s so great about this widget?

The HTML is already formatted, so you get a nice-looking set of mini-book covers and links to your books on Goodreads. Both the cover and title of each book go to that book’s page on Goodreads.

You could create this on your own, of course, but it’s nice to have the tiny version of the image (50×75 px) created for you, the links are already set up so you don’t have to go look them all up, and everything is nicely formatted so the covers are left-aligned and there are horizontal line breaks in between the entries.

Another nifty thing is that whatever color you have set for hyperlinks (I use a light green on my author website) will be applied.

How to add a Goodreads books widget to your author website

  • Log in to Goodreads and go to your author dashboard.
     
  • Click on ‘Author Widgets’ in the right sidebar.
     
  • Scroll down until you get to the ‘Books Widget’ section.
     
  • Customize the parameters, and hit enter. The result will be displayed to the right of the HTML box.
     
    Note that if you change the number of books the example that is displayed will match the number you selected, but the HTML in the text box will not. Information on how to get around this is in the ‘customize’ section further down in this post.
     

     
  • Copy the HTML in the text box, and paste it wherever you want it on your website.

Exactly where you want this text to go will depend on what software you’re using for your site, how that software is organized, etc.

In my case, I’m using WordPress and have several custom sidebars set up, so I added my books HTML to one of the sidebars, then have a plugin set up so that my other sidebars reuse that chunk of code so it’s only in one place.

Are there any issues to be aware of?

There are several issues with using this widget.

  • The Goodreads site implies that you can set the number of books that will appear in your widget, but this doesn’t appear to be working. My widget code contains information for only 5 titles. When you increase the number the correct number of books appears in the example on the Goodreads site, but it doesn’t appear in the HTML they provide to you.
     
  • There’s a note on the Goodreads page stating “Books are ordered by popularity on Goodreads,” which makes sense. However, one of the five books that appears in my generated HTML hasn’t been released yet, and several others that have been released and have reviews don’t appear in my HTML.
     
  • The text you’re copying/pasting is fixed, including the reviews and ratings – so if these change you need to re-generate the HTML on Goodreads.
     
  • The generated HTML contains a link to your Goodreads author page, and looks something like this:
     
    Jamie Ferguson’s books on Goodreads
     
    There’s nothing wrong with this, but it might not fit the way you want your website to look. For example, this came out as much larger font in my sidebar than I wanted.

But never fear! You can customize your HTML!

How to customize your HTML

This requires either a trivial knowledge of HTML, or a bit of bravery on your part. πŸ™‚

Here are examples of a few things you might consider doing.

  • Remove or modify the link to your Goodreads author page.
     
    If you look at the generated HTML, you’ll see something like this.
     
    <a style=”font-size: 1.3em; color: #382110; text-decoration: none;” href=”https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3285253.Jamie_Ferguson?utm_medium=api&utm_source=author_widget”>Look at my books!</a>
     
    You can remove this entirely, customize the text, font, etc.
     
  • Add more books to your HTML.
     
    Presumably the 5-book limitation is a bug and will eventually be fixed, but here’s how to add more books to your generated HTML.
     
    Change the number in the settings on Goodreads’ page to something larger so that the book(s) you want to put in your widget are listed. Then look at the page’s HTML, find the <div class=”gr_book_container”> section for the desired book(s), and copy/paste it into the HTML on your site.
     
    Here’s an example of one of my books using Chrome’s developer tools to look at the source.
     

     
  • Remove the reviews and ratings.
     
    You can leave these in if you’d like, of course, but you might want to take them out if you don’t like the fact that the numbers are fixed until you copy/paste the next version of HTML from Goodreads.
     
    For each book, remove the section that looks like this:
     
    <div class=”gr_review_stats”>
    ratings: 1 (avg rating 5.00)
    </div>
     

References

Claim and configure your BookBub Author Profile – and why you should

BookBub Author Profiles are useful even if you never run a BookBub ad, and they’re quick and easy to set up. And why pass up a chance for free marketing? πŸ™‚

Prerequisites

Before claiming your profile, decide if you want to use the same log in information as your author self, or both your author self and your reader self.

I prefer to keep my accounts separate, so I have one BookBub account for Jamie the reader, and a separate BookBub Partner account for Jamie the author; both use different email addresses. I do this for every site I use – and I have separate accounts for Blackbird Publishing as well on those sites where that’s appropriate. I find the separation helps me better track which role I’m acting in when I do something. But there’s nothing wrong with mixing if that works better for you.

Why should you claim your Author Profile?

  • Any BookBub members who ‘follow’ your profile will be sent an email alert when you release a new book (as long as you’ve claimed the book in the first few days after release), or when you run a BookBub Featured Deal. This email includes your cover, a brief description of your book, and links to purchase your book at the retailers. The email also gives readers the ability to bookmark your book.
     
    Note that this applies to new releases in the U.S. only.
     
  • BookBub occasionally suggests authors for readers to follow, and they prioritize authors who have claimed and completed their profiles.
     
  • Your profile can contain links to sign up for your newsletter, your author website, etc.
     

Claim your Author Profile

  • Go to BookBub’s Author Profile page and click the “Get Started” link in the section labeled “Create an Account & Claim Your Profile.”
     
  • You’ll be taken to a sign in screen. If you’re using an existing BookBub reader account, you’ll be asked to create a BookBub Partner account; if you are creating a new account, click on the “Sign Up” link next to the text “Don’t have a Partner account?”
     
    Note that you must set your role to “Author” in order to be able to claim your profile.
     
  • Go to the Partner Dashboard and click on the link “Manage Your Author Profile,” then walk through their screens to find and select your author name.
     
  • BookBub will review your request, and it can take up to a week for them to do so. This process should go smoothly, but contact BookBub’s support team if you run into any issues.
  •  
    Note that you have to create a separate BookBub Partner account for each author name, as you can only claim one author profile with each Partner account.

    Configure your Author Profile

    • Log in to the BookBub Partner Dashboard.
       
    • Click on your profile icon in the top right-hand corner of the screen, then select “Manage Profile.”
       
       
    • Add a cover photo and a biography. Hyperlinks will look like text when you’re editing, but will be displayed as actual links to the reader.
       
      Note that the genres are not editable; they are set based on the categories of the books that BookBub has associated with your profile. BookBub’s help page on this topic refers to an older version of their profile screen, so contact them directly if you’d like to modify your genres.
       
    • Click on the “View Profile” link at the top right-hand side of the page (underneath your profile icon) to see what your profile looks like to readers.
       
    • If you’d like to get copies of the email alerts that are sent to your followers, go to the View Profile page, click the gear under the “Edit Profile” link, check the box next to “Send me copies of email alerts my followers receive.” and click “Save Changes.”

    Manage your books

    BookBub will automatically associate your books with your profile, but it’s important to make sure all of your books are listed. In my case, they correctly linked three books to my profile, but I had to manually add the others.

    • To add books, either go directly to the My Books page, or select “Manage Books” on the View Profile page, then click on My Books.
       
    • Click on “Add Books” at the top right-hand side of the page.
       
    • Search for your book, then click the “Add” button that appears next to it.
       
      You can search by title, Amazon URL, ASIN, ISBN, or a keyword.
       

    I was unable to add two collections that I’m in. My guess is that this is because my name doesn’t appear on the Amazon sales pages; Amazon only allows you to list 10 authors on the sales page, and there are more than 10 authors in each of these titles. I sent a note to BookBub, and will see how that goes. (Note that you can claim a title as your book on Amazon even if your name isn’t listed on the sales page.)

    References

Create a YouTube channel and publish a video

YouTube channels can be handy for book trailers, videos of you being interviewed about your books, videos of your cats playing…whatever makes sense for your author and/or publisher persona. πŸ™‚

Prerequisites

  • You already have a Google account, and therefore a YouTube account.
     
    If you have an existing Google account you want to use, you can log in to YouTube.com with that account.

    If you don’t have an existing Google account (or if you have one, but don’t want to use it), go to YouTube.com, click ‘Sign in’ in the top right-hand corner of the screen, then click ‘Create Account’ to create a new Google account.

  • You have a video to upload to your soon-to-be-created channel.

YouTube channel types

There are two types of YouTube channels:

  1. A personal channel owned by your Google account. Only you can manage this account.
  2. A channel owned by a Brand Account. Multiple people can manage a Brand Account.

YouTube allows you to create one channel owned by your Google account; all additional channels must be owned by a Brand Account.

You can move a channel to an existing Brand Account, so if you start off by creating a personal channel you can always move it to a Brand Account later if desired.

Note that creating a Brand Account also creates a Google Plus account.

Creating a YouTube channel

  • Sign in to YouTube.com
  • Click on your profile image in the top right-hand corner of the browser.
  • In the pop-up that appears, click the gear icon.
  • If you have no existing channels:
     

    • Click on “Create a new channel.”
    • A pop-up will appear asking how you want to use YouTube.

    • If you want to use your Google account, click ‘Create Channel.’

      If you want to create a Brand Account, click ‘Use a business or other name.’

    If you have one or more existing channels:

    • Click on “See all my channels or create a new channel.”
    • You’ll be taken to your channel list.

    • Click ‘Create a new channel.’ You’ll be asked to create a Brand Account.

    • Enter the desired name and create your Brand Account; this will also create your channel.

Upload a video to a YouTube channel

Select either your Google account or, if you have one or more Brand Accounts, the appropriate Brand Account. Make sure the profile icon in the top right-hand corner of the page matches the account/channel you want to upload your video to.

  • Click on the upload icon at the top of the page.

  • Click on ‘Select files to upload’ and navigate to your video, or drag and drop your video file.
  • Select the visibility for the video; the default is Public.
  • Enter whatever values you’d like – a description, tags, etc.

  • Click ‘Publish’ to publish the video to your channel.

References

Adding a video to your Goodreads author page

Videos will appear in the left sidebar on your Goodreads author page, underneath your profile photo and the list of your followers.

Prerequisites

  • You already have a Goodreads author profile.
  • Your video is hosted on YouTube.com or Livestream.com.

Adding a video

  • Navigate to the ‘Add a Video’ page. There are two ways to get there.
    • Option #1
      • Go to your Goodreads author profile.
      • Click ‘Add New’ in the videos section in the left sidebar.
    • Option #2
      • Go to your author profile.
      • Click ‘Edit My Author Profile’ at the top of the right sidebar.
      • Click ‘videos’ in the left sidebar.

     

  • Add a title and the video URL (aka the URL from YouTube or Livestream).
  • Add a description if desired.
  • If your video is about a specific book, select the book.
  • Select the channel – trailer for a book trailer, etc.
  • Select tags for the video if appropriate.
  • Click ‘save’ to save your video.

Viewing and modifying your existing videos

  • Go to your author profile.
  • Click ‘Edit My Author Profile’ at the top of the right sidebar.
  • Click ‘videos’ in the left sidebar, and then your videos will be displayed.
     
  • To edit a video, click on the name of the video, then on “Edit this video.”
  • You can also add comments to your own videos by clicking on ‘Add a comment.’

Create a username for your Facebook page

When you create a new Facebook page, the URL will look something like this.

https://www.facebook.com/The-Beneath-the-Waves-bundle-432987423709780

And here’s the custom URL to the same page. beneath.the.waves.bundle is now the page’s username:

https://www.facebook.com/beneath.the.waves.bundle

You can set up a username for any page – your author page, a book page, your publishing press’ page, etc.

The username will appear below your page’s name and image in the left-hand sidebar.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Why create a username for your page?

  • It’s a lot easier to remember something like “beneath.the.waves.bundle” than “The-Beneath-the-Waves-bundle-432987423709780”.
  • It looks nicer. πŸ™‚
  • Your page becomes more likely to show up in searches because of the way Facebook indexes information.
  • The URLs fb.me/your.username and m.me/your.username will be created. For example, http://fb.me/beneath.the.waves.bundle takes you directly to the Beneath the Waves bundle’s page, but http://fb.me/The-Beneath-the-Waves-bundle-432987423709780 (which uses the non-custom URL) does not – it just takes you to the main Facebook page.

Prerequisites

  • You have an existing page.
  • You’re an admin for this page.
  • The page does not already have a username (since it can’t be changed once set).

If you look around for other instructions, you may see comments saying your page needs to have 25+ fans before you can create a username. This may have been a requirement in the past, but I’ve successfully created usernames for several pages with less than 25 likes.

How to set up a custom username

IMPORTANT: You only get one chance to set a username. If you don’t like the one you selected, you can’t change it. So think through what you want ahead of time, and make sure you don’t accidentally make a typo!

  • Go to your page.
  • Click the three dots under your cover photo, then select Edit Page Info.
  • An ‘Edit your details’ window will pop up. Click on ‘See All Information’ at the bottom of this window.
  • In the About section, click on ‘Select a Username’.
  • Enter your desired username. If it’s not available, you’ll get a warning message.
     
    Username restrictions:

    • 5-50 characters long
    • Can only consist of alphanumeric characters and periods (dashes are not permitted).
    • Can’t contain generic terms or extensions, like .com or .net.
    • They’re not case-sensitive, so while you’re welcome to always type in lower/uppercase, both will work when someone types in the link to your page. The different case letters will, however, appear the way you entered them on your page (your username will be displayed at the top of the left-hand sidebar).
  • Click ‘Create username’ to save.
     

     

If you get an error message saying “This page isn’t eligible for a username.” try creating the username with another Facebook account. For example, you could give a friend temporary admin access to your page, have them create the username, then remove their access.

Important note

Facebook can remove your username because of inactivity. It’s unclear what ‘enough’ activity is πŸ™‚ so just keep this in mind.

Reference

Facebook’s help page on creating usernames