Six Things You Should Be Including in Your EBook (and Probably Aren’t)

by Joel Friedlander on August 28, 2013 · 89 comments

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by David Kudler (@StillpointDigPr)

David, who is currently serving as vice president of the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA) is also the proprietor of a digital publishing company. His last article here was 7 Deadly Myths and 3 Inspired Truths About Book Editing. Today David has an idea for you that can really help you engage readers and sell more books. Here’s his post.



Or, How to Use Your Ebooks as Your Best Marketing Platform

Quick: who—aside from you, your immediate family, and your dog—are the people most excited about your book, most ready to talk about it with their friends, and best equipped to talk about your book’s virtues? Anyone?

Well, there are lots of possible answers for each of those questions, but when it comes to identifying the whole bunch, I’d bet it’s a group that you haven’t thought much about: The people who have just finished the last page. 

Think about it. If someone has actually finished your book, they’re committed to it. They’re interested in what you have had to say, and it’s fresh in their minds. They are your ideal advocates, your perfect evangelists for generating more excitement about your work and making sure that people hear about it. So what are you doing to harness that potential?

Most self-publishers don’t do much of anything. Maybe they put a bio at the back, and, possibly a link to their web page. Commercial publishers don’t do a whole lot more—they’ll put a list of similar titles the reader might be interested in, and, if they’re very twenty-first century, they’ll hyperlink those titles to the appropriate pages on their site.

Those are all really, really good ideas, and a great way to make the next sale. Is that enough? No, no, no.

What are you going to do to make sure that this title finds its audience? How are you going to harness that band of potential sales reps who’ve just finished your book and really want to talk with someone about it? I was thinking about this recently, and realized that the answer was pretty simple, when you remember that an ebook is simply a specialized web page. You do something like this:

David Kudler Thanks

To anyone who uses the web regularly—especially anyone who buys ebooks—those buttons are self-explanatory. Click us! they say. Click us and let everyone know what you think of this fascinating book you’ve just read! 

You’ve seen a million little constellations of buttons like that on your browser. Why not put one where those motivated readers can use them at exactly the point where they’re most likely to do so?

To decode (if you haven’t been submerged in the culture of social media), each of those buttons leads to a review site. From top left to bottom right, they are buttons from the bookseller—in this case Amazon.com (you should change this to match each site you sell on), GoodReads.com (the preeminent review exchange site), my own website (more on that later), Facebook.com, Twitter.com, and Pinterest.com. (The missing link here—heh, “missing link”—is for Google+. I’ll explain below why I haven’t included that button.)

Finding the buttons is easy—the sites themselves usually have link buttons that they want you to use, and you’re welcome to use the buttons from this post. Building the appropriate links is just a bit harder, but only a bit. In order to create the appropriate links for these buttons above, you must first do the following things, all of which you have to do anyway:

  1. Create a dedicated web page for your book — on your own site, or on any other site that you like (if you are working through a publishing services company, they’ll create one for you).
  2. Create a cover for your book.
  3. Create a GoodReads page for your book (or, if your book has been published before, for this edition of your book).

Now to the business of building those links. 

Your page: The first one that you need to think about is the one to your site—or whatever you are using as your dedicated page, since a number of the other links will be based on that. If you haven’t already loaded a copy of your logo/colophon into the ebook, do that, and then hyperlink it as follows:

<a href=”http://www.yoursite.com/yourbookpage/?detail&amp;buy“><img src=”images/logo.jpg” alt=”Logo” /></a>

Now, obviously, the actual addresses will need to correspond to your page and the location of your image in your book’s structure. Okay so far? If you’ve been working on your ebook or know HTML at all, that should have been a piece of cake.

Okay. Load the rest of those images into your ebook. 

GoodReads: Now, the easiest of the remaining links will be the one to your GoodReads page. The link will look something like this:

<a href=”http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/123456789-yourbook“><img src=”images/goodreads-button.jpg” alt=”Logo” /></a>

Amazon: Since the large majority of ebook sales—especially by self-published authors—happen through Amazon’s Kindle store, I’m going to show you how to link to that. However, you should absolutely change this button and the link code to match that of whatever site you’re selling on, since they don’t like you linking to other booksellers from within their ebooks!

All of the booksellers use the ISBN as a unique identifier for each individual edition—except for Amazon. Amazon uses their own identifier for ebooks—ASIN—which means, unfortunately, that we have to wait until after the book is published on the Kindle Store to create this link

In either case, we’re going to use that number to create a link to the seller’s review page for your book. We want to make it as easy as possible for them to hit the button that says “Post your own review” or whatever. Because Amazon doesn’t assign an ASIN until the title is published, the easiest way to get this link is to go to your book’s page. Look up in the address bar; it will look something like this:

http://www.amazon.com/Your-Title-ebook/dp/B00ABCDEFG/

The two parts we care about are the title tag (Your-Title-ebook) and the ASIN (B00ABCDEFG). Now, you can’t link directly to the script launched by the “Be the first to review this book” link. However, you can link to the list of reviews. No reviews yet, you say? Pshaw. Here’s a typical Amazon review listing:

http://www.amazon.com/Death-in-a-Fair-Place-ebook/product-reviews/B00AXN84H0/

You’ll note that I’ve highlighted the title tag and ASIN. Replace those with your own so that it looks something like this:

http://www.amazon.com/Your-Title-ebook/product-reviews/B00ABCDEFG/

Now create that link in your ebooks:

<a href=”http://www.amazon.com/Your-Title-ebook/product-reviews/B00ABCDEFG/”><img src=”images/amazon-button.jpg” alt=”Logo” /></a>

There you go! When someone clicks on that, the first thing they’ll see is a button reading “Create your own review.” Just what we want.

Now it gets interesting—but if your dedicated web page already has social sharing set up, even this isn’t a big deal. If there are buttons already set up for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc., just click on them, copy the URL out of the address bar, create the link, and you’re done.

If you don’t have sharing set up (and if you don’t, you should), it’s still doable. You just need to know one thing about how web addresses are called from inside other URLs: you can’t use any non-alphanumeric characters. So to include a colon (:), slash (/), ampersand (&), question mark (?), etc., we have to use (gulp) the HTML numeric code for that character.

Well, no big deal. I’ll give you a cheat sheet. So let’s start with your book’s dedicated web page. It probably looks something like this:

http://www.yoursite.com/yourbookpage/?detail&buy

To use this inside of one of the social networking site’s URL’s, we’re going to need to change all of those non-letter characters to HTML codes. Here’s that cheat sheet I was talking about.

  • Change the colon (:) to %3A
  • Change all slashes (/) to %2F
  • Change all question marks (?) to %3F
  • Change all ampersands (&) to %26
  • Change all spaces ( ) to %20

When you make those substitutions, your URL will look like this:

http%3A%2F% 2Fwww.yoursite.com%2Fyourbookpage%2F%3Fdetail&amp;buy

Ugly, but browsers will read them just fine. To create those social links just replace the bit that matches our dummy address above with your own. 

Facebook: For this link, we’re going to replace the web page URL, which goes after the “u=” attribute, and we’re also going to pre-enter some text (the author’s name and the book’s title, in this example) after the “t=” attribute. For that text, instead of using %20 for spaces, use the plus symbol (+).

https://www.facebook.com/sharer/sharer.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.yoursite.com%2Fyourbookpage%2F%3Fdetail&26;buy&amp;t=Your+Name+-+Your+Title&amp;display=popup

Twitter: This link is easy; just paste our doctored URL after the “url=” attribute:

https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.yoursite.com%2Fyourbookpage%2F%3Fdetail&26;buy

Pinterest: For this link, we’re going to use your web page’s actual, undoctored URL, and we’re again going to pre-enter some text—your name, the book’s title, and more text (the short description, for example) after the “description=” attribute.

This time, we’re using %20 for spaces. We are also going to need a web address for your cover art (here called “cover.jpg”) which goes after the “media=” attribute.

http://pinterest.com/pin/create/button/?url=http://www.yoursite.com/yourbookpage/?detail&buy&amp;media=http://www.yoursite.com/yourbookpage/images/cover.jpg&amp;description=The%20best%20book%20ever%20written%20blah%20blah

There you go! Now you’ve given your erstwhile evangelists the wherewithal to share their passion for your work with their friends, their colleagues, the world! Will every reader take advantage of that opportunity? No. But if even one in ten does, and even one in a hundred of that person’s friends buys your book, that’s a win. You’re harnessing the power of social networking.

By the way: why no Google+? The short answer is that Google really doesn’t like having content “pushed” into their network. And so, while they love having those “+1″ buttons all over the place, I haven’t yet figured out how to create a way of turning that into a script that an ebook reader can interpret. If you’re smarter than I am (which is not unlikely) and can suggest a way to create such a link, please let us know!

book editingDavid Kudler is a writer and editor living just north of the Golden Gate Bridge with his wife and daughters. And cat. And many guppies. He serves as publisher for Stillpoint Digital Press, producing ebooks, audiobooks, and print editions. Since 1999, he has overseen the publications program of the Joseph Campbell Foundation, managing the publication of over fifty print, ebook, audio, and video titles, including the third edition of the seminal Hero with a Thousand Faces.

Photo: bigstockphoto.com

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    { 78 comments… read them below or add one }

    Heath Sharples July 10, 2014 at 4:29 am

    Hi David, thanks for your last reply. With some tinkering we managed to fix the code and all is well, so thanks again.
    One more thing though. If you could clarify how I’m supposed to link a Goodreads review to the icon when the book hasn’t been published yet? I’m confused!

    Cheers.

    Reply

    David Kudler July 10, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    Glad to be of assistance!

    You can (and should) set up your Goodreads page before release — in fact, as soon as you’ve got a title.

    It’s a way to get your marketing going before publication, and allows you to set up a place for early reviewers to post, not to mention the option of participating in one of their giveaways.

    Reply

    Heath Sharples July 5, 2014 at 11:32 pm

    Hi David.

    Firstly, great idea and I’m glad I stumbled upon it. Unfortunately I have had some technical issue creating the page in my ebook. For some unknown reason, the FB and Twitter links work fine once they are converted from html to the mobi file, but the other links only zoom in and out and the links obviously don’t work. I’ve even hired a third party to help me fix it without success. As usual, I’m sure it is something small that we’ve missed. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    Thanks.

    Reply

    David Kudler July 6, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    Heath — Dealing with HTML can sometimes be really frustrating, I know.

    What you’re describing makes it sound like the e-readers are treating the buttons as images, and not as, you know, buttons. My guess is that you’re not putting the image tag (<img src="http://whatever.url/image.jpg"/>) between the paired hyperlink opening and closing tags (opening tag: <a href="http://whatever.url/page.html">; closing tag:</a>). In order to create a link, the a tags have to be on either side of whatever you want to act as the link, whether it’s text or an image.

    Reply

    David Kudler May 28, 2014 at 7:49 am

    Great, Stephen! Glad that this was of some help.

    What seems to be the problem with the FB and Pinterest links? I’ve used them in dozens of ebooks and they seem to work just fine (aside from the fact that I haven’t been able to get pre-entered text to work on FB since they changed the API). Can you share a copy of the code that you’ve used — not my dummy, but the actual link?

    Reply

    Stephen J. Carter May 28, 2014 at 4:39 am

    Hi thanks for this. I spent an all-nighter last night, did much of what you recommend, & wow my ebook looks a lot better with multiple clickable links now … But I couldn’t get the Share social media links to work … I’ll keep trying to do FB & Pinterest in future submissions. Thanks!

    Reply

    Stephen J. Carter May 27, 2014 at 9:38 am

    hi, sorry I was so impatient and impolite in my comment. I read some of the other comments and others have really benefited from your advice. That’s great. Anyway, all the best.

    Reply

    Stephen Carter May 27, 2014 at 9:31 am

    I really really wish you would stop saying how EASY it is. Because with almost every paragraph I was screaming with frustration at how you assumed we already knew so much, when that is really not the case. I read only 1 article in 10 on formatting or CSS or HTML or e-publishing where the English used, the descriptions, the explanations, are intelligible. I am so sick of always reading paragraphs where the writer invariably says something like … “Now, obviously, the actual addresses will need to correspond to your page and the location of your image in your book’s structure. Okay so far? If you’ve been working on your ebook or know HTML at all, that should have been a piece of cake.” Okay so far. Piece of cake. Do you realize how few people really understand this?! It’s not something people easily and naturally learn, it’s difficult & counter-intuitive in the extreme. Can I use what you’ve written here? I’ll try but I’m not optimistic. I have tried repeatedly to include clickable links in my ebooks, but it NEVER NEVER works. And I can never get a simple, easy, direct, no-jargon answer to that simple question. Yes, I used exactly the format you show, but it doesn’t freaking work. I use: New Release Mailing List … but it doesn’t work. The link does appear on the Caliber copy, when I view the book on Caliber. It also appears on the PC Kindle Reader, but when I click on it, it just takes me to the Amazon book page. But on my own kindle reader the link just appears as normal text, no hyperlink at all. And this is the first step you’re talking of, yet for you it’s apparently the easiest thing in the world. I wish somebody would explain this stuff in a very simple direct way, and not assume always how easy it is. Readers don’t read your article b/c it’s easy, they read it b/c they’re having difficulty and need mega-help. I’m beginning to think I’ll never master this. Very depressing and discouraging.

    Reply

    David Kudler May 28, 2014 at 7:46 am

    Stephen, I’m sorry that you’ve had a difficult time with this.

    Are you sure that the links aren’t live in your Kindle? I’ve got a Paperwhite, which is a bit different, but my memory is that old-school Kindles don’t automatically underline links — so you have to guess that they’re there, or add [code]a{font-style:underline}[/code] to the CSS.

    The link that you showed up there has an extra double-quote mark in it. You might check the code in the ebook — if it’s got a pair of double quotes at the end of the link…. Well, yeah. That would be a problem.

    Reply

    Janet Lancaster April 22, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    Need some clarification:
    Should we have a landing page (in the truest sense of the word, with just one call to action [buy the book]) and a separate page for reviews on the various platforms? Or is it just one page for both actions (buy the book or write a review)?

    Thank you
    Janet

    Reply

    David Kudler April 22, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    Good question.

    I’ve got a review tab on my book pages, but the social media pages link to the main page — that’s where we want to send buyers.

    The two buttons at the top link directly to review pages — at Amazon (or whatever bookseller you’re uploading the particular ebook to) and at Goodreads.

    Make sense?

    Reply

    Janet Lancaster April 23, 2014 at 8:21 am

    Hi David
    Would it be too much trouble to post the 2 URLs you are referring to so that I can see your recommendation precisely?

    Thank you

    Janet

    Reply

    David Kudler May 28, 2014 at 8:24 am

    Janet, I’m sorry that I didn’t respond to this earlier; I didn’t see the notification that you’d responded.

    The URL for Amazon (for a book that I published recently) is: http://www.amazon.com/The-Law-Heart-Speculative-Stories-ebook/product-reviews/B00K9SFLQ6/

    The URL for Goodreads (for the same book) is: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22038102-the-law-the-heart

    Reply

    Carol Vorvain April 21, 2014 at 2:01 am

    Hi David,

    This is a great post. I just got stuck at the step of finding the icon for Amazon’s “Write a review”. Could you please suggest a place to download it from?

    Many thanks,
    Carol

    Reply

    David Kudler April 22, 2014 at 9:21 am

    Carol,

    Thanks!

    I… may have cobbled that one together, because I wanted it to be clear what the button would take the reader to (i.e., not a list of the author’s other books, for example).

    Here’s the URL: https://stillpointdigital.com/smidget_iframe/amazon.jpg

    Reply

    Carol Vorvain April 23, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    Thanks David.

    That’s smart. No wonder I could not find it anywhere else :).

    Thanks again,
    Carol

    Reply

    Janet Lancaster March 17, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    Hi David
    Thanks for this great article!

    I am a bit confused on the landing page point. If you are going to have the link to the landing page in the eBook…which people already bought, what should be the focus of the content on the landing page? They already bought the book, so a call to action to buy it doesn’t make sense. Thanks for your insight.

    Janet

    Reply

    David Kudler March 17, 2014 at 7:03 pm

    Good question, Janet. The thought behind my approach is that if the page has a comment or review mechanism the reader can leave a review there, and hopefully explore the other books while they’re there.

    A lot of marketing assumes that you’ve got more than one title to sell; another approach would be to send the reader to a page with your other books.

    I often put a list of other titles by the author on the copyright page, and again just after these buttons, and so I don’t feel the need to place that link again.

    However, you can certainly link the social widgets to any web page that you want! Just remember that if you link to one particular bookstore, you’ll need to change the URL each time you upload your file to a different store.

    Hope that makes sense!

    Reply

    David Kudler December 7, 2013 at 11:36 am

    Hi! Just an update:

    I’ve added Google+ to this widget. Also, because of the wonderful response, I’ve started creating these pages as a service, that I’m calling Smidget: the social media widget for ebooks. If you’d like more information, see http://stillpointdigital.com/smidget

    Reply

    Nick Lim December 6, 2013 at 10:41 am

    blue link line under clickable images
    Does anyone know how to get rid of a blue link line under clickable images on kindle?

    Here’s my code:

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

     

     

     

       

    Thank you for reading this story. If you enjoyed it, please share your thoughts.

     

       

    Reply

    David Kudler December 7, 2013 at 12:22 am

    Yes! I know how!

    Check the code. Make sure the opening and closing hyperlink tags () are right next to the image tag (), with no spaces.

    Reply

    Kristen Pham October 16, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    This is so timely, I’m creating the content at the back of my book right now. Thank you so much for sharing this info – I’m not super tech savvy so this specific advice is invaluable.

    Reply

    David Kudler October 16, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    Glad to hear it! Let us know how it goes for you!

    Reply

    Ian Anderson September 5, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    My goodness David, the ‘thank the reader’ image on the last page is pure genius!

    I always feel a twinge of loss/regret/sadness when I finish a great book, and it always feels like the author didn’t even say goodbye, especially as we spent so much time together!

    Saying ‘thanks’, ‘get in touch’, ‘let others know about this’ etc is the perfect opportunity to keep an engaged reader on your side and start the most powerful of all marketing strategies, personal recommendation by word of mouth (much better than ‘here are some other titles you might like’ incidentally).

    Many thanks for this gem David!
    Stay well

    Reply

    David Kudler September 10, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    Thanks, Ian! I’ve had the experience of sitting with a just-finished book in my hands, wishing it weren’t over — and wishing I could tell everyone about it. Goodreads and its ilk have made that a lot simpler — but the realization that sparked this article was realizing that with an ebook (unlike its paper-and-ink brethren), it is possible to give the reader an outlet for that impulse, right at the tips of his or her fingers, and at exactly the point when it’s most likely to be used.

    Reply

    Ian Anderson September 10, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    Yup, there is such an outlet at the end of my current book, now you’ve educated me!

    It’s too a powerful a moment to throw away on an empty page.
    Thanks again!

    Reply

    Jean September 5, 2013 at 4:41 am

    With the passage of time ebook’s demand is increasing rapidly and it is one of the great source of learning. In this scenario your shared information is very helpful and effective to make any ebook perfect. These shared six things are necessary for every ebook because without that particular information we can’t achieve the purpose of ebook.

    Reply

    David Kudler September 10, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    Thanks, Jean! I’m glad that you found this useful.

    Reply

    Ramon Somoza August 29, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    Very nice post. However, you should be aware that some ebook vendors have a policy against active links. Check out the terms and conditions before including those.

    Regarding the problem of the changing links, the use of “intelligent linkers” is that changes to the encoding of the target (say Amazon, or Facebook, etc.) might not be solved by those intelligent linkers, and you may be stuck with a lot of readers that want to provide feedback but the links in their ebooks simply don’t work.

    If you have your own website (which should be a must for any self-respecting author, as well as a nice marketing tool), you can do a very neat trick, which is use an URL on your website such as http://www.mywebsite.com/mybook/amazon or http://www.mywebsite.com/mybook/twitter, and then do a redirect of those URLs to the intended destination. This is pretty easy to do, you can do it through the website interface (e.g., CPanel) if it allows for that or via the .htaccess files (sorry, this latter is not for beginners).

    What this basically does is that anyone who clicks on your link is redirected by your website to the proper URL. Should the target URL change, then you simply change the redirection. It takes a little bit of work (you need to check that the links work from time to time), but you only depend on yourself for this…

    Reply

    David Kudler August 29, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    I love the redirect trick! Very nice.

    Every ebook I’ve ever created — either for my own company or for others — has had “active” links (that is, links out of the book to the open web), even if only a link to the publisher’s site (and one to mine) on the copyright page. Most have had anywhere from a dozen to hundreds (academic books linking to articles etc. in the footnotes).

    The only time a bookseller has ever kicked a book back over such links was the time that I’d linked each item of a lengthy bibliography to the Amazon page for each title… and forgot to update that for Apple’s iBookstore. They weren’t amused.

    As nearly as I can tell “no active links” means “don’t ever link to a book-selling site… other than ours.” I certainly don’t think they’d object to marketing your book through social media — since they’re likely to make money too. They don’t seem to mind links back to one’s own site, either.

    Reply

    Ramon Somoza August 30, 2013 at 8:28 am

    Nice to know that, David, I hesitated including those links for my latest book because of the “official” policy… I’ll try it out by updating the ebook.

    Reply

    David Kudler August 30, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    Do, Ramon! The worst thing that’s likely to happen is that they’ll send back the book — leaving the current version on sale. But yeah — I think even Amazon and Apple realize that an ebook should act, you know, like an ebook. At this point, the huge majority of ereaders are network-capable, so it makes sense to take advantage of that.

    I’ve said it before, but DO remember never to link to one bookseller’s site in the version of the book your uploading to another company! Aside from that, yeah, I think you’re going to be fine.

    And let us know how that goes, okay?

    Reply

    Ian September 29, 2013 at 8:02 am

    Hi guys,
    A super easy way to do these directs (in wordpress) is to use the pretty links plugin (no affiliation!) because its just so easy and as Ramon comments it gives you lovely looking URLs for things that aren’t, well… so pretty!

    Here it is in the directory http://wordpress.org/plugins/pretty-link/ It looks a little complicated on their webpage but trust me the plugin itself is simplicity personified.

    I use it for the few affiliate links I have plus any long URLs, content I’ve moved from an old blog etc. etc.

    No coding or wandering around in the frankly scary c-panel!
    Hope that helps.
    Ian

    Reply

    Ian September 29, 2013 at 8:03 am

    Sorry that should have read re-directs!

    Reply

    Frances Caballo August 29, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    This is a great post David and very tiimely for me. I appreciate the work you put into this post. Thanks so much!

    Reply

    David Kudler August 30, 2013 at 7:46 am

    I’m glad this was helpful, Frances! Let us know how it works for you.

    Reply

    Greg Strandberg August 29, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Amazingly useful content that will be read for years to come. Great job!

    Reply

    David Kudler August 29, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Thanks! Glad you found this thought-provoking.

    Reply

    Merry Bond August 29, 2013 at 10:35 am

    Nope. The order is . It just doesn’t work. It’s ok, I’ll stick with my text links. They work. Thanks for your help.

    Reply

    David Kudler August 29, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    Merry, what I’m seeing in your message is this:

    Nope. The order is <a href=”http:\\link” rel=”nofollow”></a>

    If that’s accurate — WordPress sometimes does funny things when you try to write code into these comment boxes — then the problem is that you haven’t put the button image between the hyperlink tags.

    It works just like italics or bolding text — the target (whether it’s words or a picture) needs to be between the opening and closing a tags. So if you want an image to be used as a hyperlinked button, you need to nest the image tag — which is to say, you need to place it inside of the opening and closing a tags:

    <a href=”http:\\link” rel=”nofollow”>
    <img src=”image.jpg” alt=”Button” /> <– The ePub standard requires that all images have an ALT attribute. –>
    </a&gt

    Otherwise, there’s nothing to click on — and the image is just an image.

    If that’s not what you meant… Well, I’d love to know, because I’m curious about your problem!

    Reply

    David Kudler March 3, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    And of course, six months later, I suddenly noticed that the URLs that Merry showed me (and which WordPress made inexplicably disappear) had back-slashes (\\) instead of the normal slashes (//) that should have been there; not certain, but I’m going to guess that that was part of the problem.

    Reply

    Merry Bond August 29, 2013 at 8:18 am

    I’ve tried putting in links like this before, and I get a very pretty button that does nothing. I don’t know if there’s something wrong with my html code (even though it is identical to yours) or because I’m converting my html to mobi using Calibre and that’s somehow messing things up (although I get text links to work just fine.
    Could you help?

    Reply

    David Kudler August 29, 2013 at 8:33 am

    Hmm. I’ve used Calibre to convert ePub files to .mobi, though not straight HTML; the links work fine.

    Just to make sure everything is set up correctly, the links you put in take this form, with the image tag nest inside the hyperlink tag, yes?:

    The closing </a&gt> tag has to go after the image. (Forgive me if I’m stating the obvious; it’s an easy problem to miss.)

    Another easy error would be failing to put the “http://” protocol at the beginning of the web address, which would lead the ebook to look for the web page within the book’s own file hierarchy.

    If the links work properly in the HTML file, then the problem might be Calibre; you could try using Kindle Previewer (or kindlegen) to convert the file directly to mobi/Kindle format.

    Reply

    David Kudler August 29, 2013 at 8:36 am

    Sorry, I forgot to code out the HTML. Here’s what the tag should look like:

    <”http://www.amazon.com/Your-Title-ebook/product-reviews/B00ABCDEFG/”><img src=”images/amazon-button.jpg” alt=”Logo” /></a>

    Reply

    Merry Bond August 29, 2013 at 9:07 am

    It must be Calibre. This is what I have:

    where the link is a bitly.com link copied from the site.
    My computer is currently dead, and I’m borrowing a friends until I get a new one so, I’m afraid I can’t try kindlegen just now.
    Thanks!

    Reply

    David Kudler August 29, 2013 at 9:18 am

    You need to make sure to put the image tag (i.e. <img src=”image.jpg” />) before the closing hyperlink tag (</a>) — it looks from what you showed me as if that wasn’t the case.

    Lela August 28, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    A most excellent idea. “We wanna know what you think” is ver-ry popular on the web and even on TV, and members of the public are more than eager to share their opinions on just about everything.

    Why not a book? They went to the trouble of reading the whole thing, and what they think about it has to be held out as important.

    As for the specifics, the button and coding suggestions are very helpful. But the main value of this post is in its spirit: the notion that every reader should be invited to share what they think. I imagine if a reader clicks a link and it doesn’t go to *exactly* the right place, they’ll be miffed and keep trying because the idea will have been planted that their opinion about the book is important.

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    Joel Friedlander August 28, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    Lela, good point. In fact, this has been going on for a long time. Many years ago, when I had my own publishing company, we would insert postcards into every book that went out asking for reader’s feedback, and we would receive hundreds of them. Sometimes people point out typos, sometimes they say “thanks,” sometimes they want to tell you you’re all wrong. Doesn’t matter. It’s a great engagement device that will also help to grow your list.

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    David Kudler August 28, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    Glad you fond this helpful, Lela!

    And yes — why not a book. At this point, every time I buy a movie ticket or download a TV show, I am asked — in the case of the TV show/movie at the end of watching — what I thought. A book is a much larger investment in time; if you’ve finished my book, I want to know what you think — and more to the point, I want you to let everyone else know!

    With the specific links, yes — I tried to keep this fairly simple, for precisely that reason, knowing, however, that some people would want a step-by-step guide.

    Reply

    Olga August 28, 2013 at 10:36 am

    There are options to get a link that works everywhere. I used viewbook but now it has become
    http://www.booklinker.net/
    If you enter one of the links you have for your book it gives you a single one that will send each person who clicks to their own Amazon store. I’m not sure if there might be an issue for associates. My old links still work…
    You might want to try that. It makes life easier.
    Thanks for the information. I post links at the end of the book but hadn’t thought about the buttons as I’m not very technically savvy.

    Reply

    Karen Myers August 28, 2013 at 10:54 am

    I’ve looked at some of those intelligent linkers. They’re lovely, but they lag the universe of links. I wish I could use them to populate my website book pages, but…

    For example, two betas I participated in couldn’t keep up with the new Amazon and Apple sites. Those businesses aren’t static.

    I do hope that will work better eventually, because it’s a better approach, when adequately complete.

    Reply

    David Kudler August 28, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    Interesting; yes, Amazon and Apple do change the architecture of their URLs from time to time, but the ASIN and ISBN never change — and so I’ve usually found that most of the old links still work. Am I misunderstanding your point?

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    Karen Myers August 28, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    No, what happens is that Amazon adds a region or Apple adds a country, and the widget can’t cope with it yet. Those real world happenings are (unusually) faster than the software (really, the data) updates. Shouldn’t be, but that’s been my experience so far. Hoping for better.

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    David Kudler August 28, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Karen, thanks for the link — that’s a new one to me!

    The reason that I didn’t use a universal link was that I’m not trying to link to the Amazon book page — I’m trying to link to the review page, and none of the linkers that I’ve found do that. This does leave me with a bit of a problem with sites like Amazon, but I’m not looking to sell the person another book (though I’ll be happy if I do); I’m trying to get them to leave a review that will (hopefully) encourage others. To a certain extent, I know that reviews on Amazon.com populate to the other Amazon sites (or at least they used to), so I’m a little less concerned which version of the site they end up on.

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    Nancy Beck August 28, 2013 at 10:23 am

    @Chad Fleagle,

    I’m so sorry that you got hooked into iUniverse – totally understandable how much dough these types of places extract from writers. (You want more horror stories? Google Publish America some time.)

    Do these things cost money? Yes. But not as much as the old vanity publishing model, where you had no choice but to have hundreds of books printed, and you were on your own to hand sell them – the remainder ending up in your garage or wherever.

    I’m 51, and as a temporary worker I’m not hauling in the dough by any means…but (you knew that was coming :-)), I learned how to do my own covers (for better or worse) how to do the different formats, how to do the blurbs, all that. While it can be frustrating at times, I simply have to write, and I refuse to go the agent and trad pub route (because of the bad pub contracts out there now).

    Anyway, though my family knows I’ve written and uploaded books, none of them are buying – unless they’re doing so without telling me. Friends? Same deal – a lot of them know that I write, but they haven’t let me know that they’ve bought anything.

    iUniverse is not the same as indie publishing as it stands right now. I’ve done most of this with very little money – maybe $200 total spread over 3 short novels, a mini-short story collection, and a full-length novel (with more novels in that series to come). I do no selling, no marketing, no promo, whatever you want to call it, on Twitter or Facebook because I don’t have enough product (novels) out there yet.

    And I don’t find tweeting or posting to walls to be much fun. If it’s not fun, I don’t do it. (Just MHO.)

    Check out Dean Wesley Smith’s site for more about this whole indie thing. You’ll get a great education – and it’s free. :-)

    Lastly, how do you know people won’t buy your books if you don’t have any out there? I haven’t sold a heck of a lot – yet – but the more you DO have out there, the better chance you have of people finding you. It’s no longer a trad pub only world, where if you’re not an immediate hit you’re considered a failure.

    Pfft to that. It seems I need more than a year or two to start selling in any big way, and I’m willing to see it through. I don’t care what anyone says; I’m going to do this until I’m selling on a steady basis – which IMHO I think is key.

    But read Dean Wesley Smith’s site, really. He has 2 wonderful series going – Think Like a Publisher and Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing. Since he’s a 20+ year publishing veteran/writer, his words should carry more weight than anything I can say. :-)

    Please take care.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander August 28, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    Nancy, thanks so much for adding to the conversation. Your method is one many authors can use, and I’m totally in agreement that the marketing part should be fun. Keep publishing, the only sales that really count are the ones you make to people who don’t know you.

    Reply

    Chad Fleagle August 28, 2013 at 9:25 am

    I’ll never trust self publishing. Not since my terrible incident with IUniverse.com Besides, these things cost money and you need a good Editor, plus friends, and family to sell your book to which I have neither of. Its just too much work if you’ve no one to buy your material.

    Reply

    Jason Matthews August 28, 2013 at 10:22 am

    That’s understandable, Chad. I can relate after my 2005 experience with Authorhouse. But I tired again on my own in 2009 and am really glad I did. Costs can get up there but they can also be kept in check. Getting several skilled-competent beta readers can reduce costs dramatically instead of hiring editors. There are many affordable cover designers. Blogging and using social media to promote the book are free and often effective.

    Reply

    David Kudler August 28, 2013 at 11:56 am

    I’m sorry to hear about your experience, Chad. Self-publishing definitely isn’t for everyone. It requires that the publisher/author take on many roles, from editing to design to marketing. Blogs like this one, as well as organizations like IBPA and BAIPA (on the board of which Joel and I both serve), can be invaluable resources for someone heading into independent publishing for the first (or twentieth) time.

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    Liz English August 19, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    Chad, have you tried joining a writer’s group? There are a lot of successful authors out there who are willing to give their time and experience to help others succeed. You could try your library or local bookstores. It’s worth a shot–you may meet some really nice people who can help you by critiquing your work and sharing ideas for promotion. Best of luck!

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    Debby Gies August 28, 2013 at 7:51 am

    Great tips, thanks David and Joel! Coming at a most opportune time for me as I am working on the publishing part of my first book right now! Although I am no techie, I have no option but to learn to keep up with the best of them. I will just add to Joel, as a first time author, much of your great info has been my teachers along this road. The most valuable to me was learning about Evernote. I catalogue all your articles there in a file so I can refer to them as I need them. Thanks again, and off to Evernote with this!

    Reply

    David Kudler August 28, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Good luck, Karen! Let us know how it goes!

    My approach with this article was to aim it at someone who knew enough HTML to look under the hood of an ebook — but wasn’t necessarily going to go out and hand-code a PHP website. I’m glad that you found this helpful.

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    Megaera February 26, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    I thought I *did* know enough to look under the hood of an ebook (although mostly what I’ve been doing is letting Smashwords’s meatgrinder do everything but Amazon, and using Mobipocket Creator to format for Amazon, so maybe not). But I have to say this article is *way* over my head. I can’t wrap my brain around how to make it work.

    I would really like to be able to put these icons, or even just plain links, in my ebooks, but I’m going to need much simpler directions, with *nothing* left out. This feels like it skips steps and I can’t figure out how you’re getting from point A to point Q with no intervening steps.

    Help? I need to be able to do it *myself.*

    Reply

    David Kudler February 26, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    Megaera — I really didn’t leave anything out, I promise! I know that HTML can be eye-crossing, but if you follow the steps I laid out, you should be able to drop your own URLs in and create a working widget.

    Is there anything specific that I can help with? And, if you’re more comfortable letting the infamous Meatgrinder do it’s thing, you can also put the icons into a Word doc and add the hyperlinks there instead. Smashwords will accept such links; I’ve installed them in Smashwords-ready Word documents for clients.

    Reply

    Megaera February 27, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    How (baby step by baby step) do I put icons into a Word document? How do I do this for the Amazon file when I’m using Mobipocket Creator to create the file from a Word doc? Or will that copy over from the Word doc, too? If not, is there a better (not any more difficult) way to create the Amazon file than using Mobipocket Creator that would preserve these icons?

    I’m getting really frustrated with all these how to market books that say “put a call to action asking for a review in the back of the book” when I can’t figure out how to put the call to action in the back of the book [wry g]. I mean, I’ve got the words, but I know I really need the links.

    Thanks for answering me.

    David Kudler March 3, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    Megaera, I apologize for taking so long to get back to you. I’m not certain that I understand precisely what you’re asking, but I’ll give it a shot.

    The first thing you need to do is find images for the buttons. In most cases, the stores/social media companies have such icons available for the purpose on their sites. In my case, my own site (like just about every site out there) has a line of such icons across the bottom of every article; I right-clicked on each icon (that’s control-click on a Mac) and selected Save Image as…, downloading each of the icons to my computer as an image file — in each case either a JPEG file or a PNG file, either of which will work in an ebook.

    The larger Amazon and Goodreads images I found on their websites. You could just do a web search for “Amazon icon” or “Goodreads icon” and find the ones that you want. (If you’re uploading to Smashwords, however, don’t include the Amazon icon and link — they’ll kick the book back to you. The only links they’ll allow are back to your own page or to Smashwords.)

    To get them into your Word document, go to the Insert menu, and select Photo and then Picture from File…. (I’m using Word for Mac 2011 — I believe it’s the same in most versions of Word created in the last decade.) Find the image files wherever you downloaded them to, and hit the Insert button. The images will now be loaded into your Word doc.

    You can play around with formatting them however you like — in a single row, in a tower, in a pyramid, whatever.

    Now select each image one by one. The easiest way to do that is to place the cursor down right next to the image, then hold down the Shift key and the left or right arrow key. The icon will now be highlighted (on my computer, it turns bright yellow). Now go up to Insert menu again and select Hyperlink… (or hit Command-k on a Mac or control-k on a Windows computer). Take the hyperlink for that site that you’ve created using the directions I gave above, and then paste them into the field provided in the dialog box and (once again) hit the Insert button. Voilà! You should have a working link.

    Now try clicking on the link you’ve just created. Does it behave the way that it should, creating a dialog to post a Tweet, update or review? If not, double-check the code and make sure that everything is as it should be. (The sites all occasionally change their code, and so some of these links may not be workable in a year or five — but they all work now.)

    Repeat that for each of the icons, and you should have a working widget. Upload to Smashwords, and watch the book start to sell itself.

    Reply

    Megaera March 12, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    And I am really sorry for taking so long to get back to *you.*

    I finally got around this week to figuring out how to follow the instructions in the comment I’m replying to, and I am relieved to say that I managed it (also that I saved these instructions for my next book, and the next, and the next…).

    Thank you so much for your help.

    Megaera March 12, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    Of course, the books don’t sell themselves via these widgets unless someone buys the book *first*, and that’s the part I’m having a hard time making happen [wry g].

    Jason Matthews August 28, 2013 at 7:11 am

    This is great advice. Icons like this are smart anywhere. I also use them on websites and blogs for social media and retailer links.

    Reply

    David Kudler August 28, 2013 at 11:50 am

    Exactly, Jason. It was looking at the smart links on my site’s pages that suddenly made me realize what was missing from my ebooks.

    Reply

    Karen August 28, 2013 at 6:35 am

    Superb information! Thanks much, David Kudler & Joel!

    Reply

    David Kudler August 28, 2013 at 11:49 am

    Glad you liked it! You’re very welcome, Karen.

    Reply

    Steve Vernon August 28, 2013 at 5:27 am

    Okay – so I can see Karen Myers arguments against this.

    It IS a hassle to make several different versions of each e-book release – but I generally wind up doing that anyways. I find it more useful to have a Kindle-specific draft and a Kobo-specific draft and a Smashwords-specific draft – etc.

    I always include a link to my blog and my twitter address.

    BUT – I whole-heartedly agree with David’s notion of using the actual Twitter icon and the Goodreads icon and all of the rest of them.

    Readers nowadays tend to be VERY tech-savvy and are conditioned to click that little bird if they want to Twitter about what they’ve just read. Seeing the actual icon on the e-book page would certainly be a step towards triggering that knee-jerk reflex feedback.

    I’m going to bookmark this blog and try to work through the steps in my next e-book release.

    Another great entry!

    Reply

    David Kudler August 28, 2013 at 11:48 am

    Thanks, Steve!

    Let us know how this works for you.

    Reply

    Alison Gillespie August 28, 2013 at 5:13 am

    Thank you so much! This is excellent, useful advice and I haven’t seen anything like it on any other blog.

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    David Kudler August 28, 2013 at 11:46 am

    Thank you, Alison!

    I hadn’t seen anything like it either, which is why I wrote this up for Joel.

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    Karen Myers August 28, 2013 at 5:13 am

    Aside from the issue of older devices where the glyphs may be an issue, or people who are reading while NOT connected to the internet (heresy, I know), I have some problems with vendor-specific links.

    1) A link to Amazon is necessarily to Amazon US (or wherever you enter KDP from). A British reader who clicks that link will not be taken to the right place.

    2) A link to, say, Kobo will still be there when the book is distributed to WH Smith. A reader who bought it from WH Smith online will find himself at Kobo.

    3) A link to any downstream vendor (e.g., Apple) via Smashwords distribution will not take the reader to a place he expects, since they all get the same file.

    I’m much happier sending the reader to my own book page which contains links to all the main places where the book is available. Along with extra materials relevant to the book they just finished, it also gives them yet another opportunity to sign up for my newsletter.

    It also means I don’t need to maintain several different versions of my back matter, always a plus.

    Reply

    David Kudler August 28, 2013 at 11:46 am

    Karen, I understand and appreciate your points, absolutely. Yes, it’s annoying having to create (essentially) a separate edition for each vendor; as Steve points out below, however, I often have to do that anyway — especially for ebooks with complex formatting.

    I’ll tell you honestly: the stores I use this with (mostly) are Amazon, Apple, and B&N. As you point out, Kobo is a bit more problematic, since they distribute their library through other vendors, as does Smashwords.

    But even on those, I do link to the book’s page on my site — and to Goodreads (and LIbraryThing or Shelfari or…) and the social media links. In many ways they’re the most valuable links here, since someone on the book’s Amazon/W.H Smith/Livraria Cultura/Whatever page is already interested in the book. Getting the word out to people who haven’t even heard of it — that’s where those little chicklets become an invaluable tool.

    Reply

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