Jim Kukral is the mastermind behind AuthorMarketingClub.com, an organization with over 16,000 members, which helps authors connect and promote their work. Jim is “… a 16-year Internet marketing professional who was recently named by Dun & Bradstreet as one of ‘The Most Influential Small Business People on Twitter.’ Jim also serves as a Program Faculty Member for the University of San Francisco’s Internet Marketing Program where he teaches classes to students around the globe on the topics of Internet marketing, entrepreneurship and social media. In addition, SmallBizTrends.com chose Jim as one of 100 top small business influencers online.” He is the co-host for the Sell More Books Show podcast along with fellow author, Bryan Cohen.
I’ve known Jim for years and have been a member of Author Marketing Club for just as long. I’ve personally used several of the incredible tools available to premium members such as the Free Book Submission Tool and the Amazon Enhanced Description Maker. Jim is a fellow Clevelander, and he invited me to be part of Author Marketing Live, a writer’s workshop he’s hosting at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel on September 8th, 2014. I recently spoke with Jim about Author Marketing Club, the big event and the current state of self-publishing. Go get yourself a premium membership to Author Marketing Club and then come back and get to know Jim Kukral.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your story.
My name is Jim Kukral and I am the founder of a web site called authormarketingclub.com. The site is a free and paid site for people who have written books or who are thinking about writing books who have learned that the hard part about writing a book or putting a book out there is figuring out how to get it in the hands of people who want to read those books. So that’s what the Author Marketing Club does.
What are some of the tools that AMC has developed for authors?
Well, our signature tool that people love the most is the one we call the Reviewer Grabber tool. Hear me out on this. The number one way that I have found to get reviews is to use this method. Now there are a lot of reasons that people don’t leave reviews on books. The number one reason most people don’t leave reviews on books is they don’t know how to leave the review. People are unsure of what to do, how to post a review on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Smashwords. They don’t understand the functionality of logging in and leaving your review. The number two reason—and these are not in any order of importance—is they just don’t know how to write. If you read a book, a horror book, and you’re not a horror writer, you probably don’t like writing at all. So the concept of you saying to yourself, “Well, I’m going to take time and try to write a clever review,” is something that most people don’t do. And people just don’t have time. I’d say out of a thousand people who read your book, maybe five to ten of those people might consider leaving a review. So when you combine all of those things together, you have people who don’t know how to leave a review, don’t want to leave a review just because they don’t have time and all of those things. So how do you solve that problem? The number one way to solve that problem—this is a proven way—is to find people who have already reviewed books similar to your books and ask them for reviews. So let me give you an example: let’s say you wrote a horror book and it’s based on killer clowns.
Hey. Can I have that idea?
You can have that idea.
You use our tool and search Amazon for books that are related to your book. You find other books that are in the horror genre or books that were written about killer clowns. What we do is we go out to Amazon and we search all the books—millions and millions of books—and we bring you back the most relevant search results based upon Amazon results. You look at that book. You find a book that has 850 reviews and the book is called Killer Clowns From Outer Space–and I know that’s a movie. That’s one of my favorite movies of all time. So you notice that book is similar in content to the book you’ve written. You click a little button next to that book that says “Grab Reviewers” and what our tool does is goes to the public Amazon profile page of all of the people who have left reviews on that book and it grabs their contact information if they have it. For example, it grabs their email address if they have their email address listed. It grabs their website if they have their website listed. And it only goes for reviews from 4 and 5 star reviewers, because why would you want to contact somebody who left a poor review on a book that is similar to yours?
It gives you back a list of all the reviewers from that book. You can then go and contact them on your own. You can say, “Hey, I see that last year you wrote a review on Killer Clowns from Outer Space. Well guess what? I wrote a book that’s very similar to that. Since you seem to like that genre, I’d love to get you a copy of my book and then you can decide if you’d like to review it or not.” The Review Grabber also does something really cool that nobody else does, which is pull the reviewers back based upon their reviewer rank and how many helpful “likes” they’ve gotten on their reviews. So you can get a Top 50 or Top 500 reviewer out of this. You can also get the reviewers who have the most “likes” on their reviews. So what we’re doing is extracting existing reviewers who are publicly available who want to read books in your genre for you to approach, and this method works a thousand times better than just randomly hoping that people are going to review your book.
It’s a fantastic tool. I also want to be very clear in restating that it’s not extracting anything that isn’t publicly available. So if you were to go to your favorite book and click on a review, if that reviewer provided their email address, that’s what’s there. You’re not tapping into anything that isn’t publicly available already.
Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, you can do all of this completely on your own without having to join Author Marketing Club. The difference is that we’ve condensed it into a little tool so instead of it taking you sixteen hours to do, it’s going to take you sixteen minutes.
The other tool I found extremely useful is your Product Description Formatter. Can you talk a little bit about that?
I’ve been doing web design and writing html code for eighteen years now. Most people don’t have any clue how to do any of that kind of stuff. There’s a little way to make your book descriptions look much better on Amazon. What you have to do is create it with some html code in the right format and paste it into your KDP account and it makes your Amazon book description look much nicer. You can have your own headline and bullet points, numbered lists and underlines and things like that. It calls attention to your book description on your Amazon page so that people see it. The big mistake that most authors make nowadays in this regard is they just take a chunk of copy from their book promotion file that they wrote and they just throw it in their book description. If you really think about it, people don’t read much online anymore. They look for headlines, they look for bullet points—they want their eye to be drawn to something. When you just throw a block of copy in there, their eye is not drawn to it. So getting that description to really pop so that people see it is really important. Remember, you’re trying to get someone to buy in to your story, to be thrilled by what you’ve written and you need to use every method available to you from your book cover to the title to the description—to tell that story and get a person intrigued.
Absolutely. Can you talk about how AMC and has grown over the years?
We have over 16,000 members and we’re growing every single day. Again, it’s a free membership and you can decide to join the paid one if you want, but there’s over 30 hours of free training and tutorials that are recorded on the free section of AMC where you can go and learn everything from how to launch a book like a Hollywood movie executive to how to upload your books to Amazon to any other topic you can imagine.
You also have the option to be part of an email blast for free and discounted books, is that right?
Yes. One of our main tools is called the free book submission tool. Early on we realized there are so many authors out there who want to have their books free for a sale or promotion and they need a way to get that book out to the world, to people who are looking for free books because this is an amazing way to build new readers. People might download the free book and say, “Wow, that was great. I have to subscribe to this author and buy all of their other books or buy Volume Two, or Serial Number Two.” So what we have is a free book submission tool. We’ve catalogued probably ten to fifteen of the best sites out there where you can submit your free books, and on our page you can click on their logos and a form pops up and you can fill out their form, and you can get it all done in one place. You don’t have to go to fifteen different websites to submit your free books to all of these places.
And that’s a great tool, too because again you’re taking something that an author could do on his or her own but you’re systematizing it in a way that makes it much more efficient and less of a task. Being able to submit your information for a free book one time that then gets propagated out to multiple websites is a real time saver.
It’s an important lesson for anyone who’s written a book. You are now in the business of marketing and selling. And one of the things I’ve learned over eighteen years of doing this type of thing is you can be successful if you save time for people. If you save people time and you solve their problems you can be successful selling anything.
That’s great marketing advice whether it’s books or widgets. I would totally agree. Last month you started a brand new podcast. Can you tell us about it?
We started a podcast call the “Sell More Books Show” and it’s a 30 minute fast-paced news podcast about how to sell more books. We cover the latest news every single week and talk about what’s going on in the publishing and self-publishing industry. We want people to just be able to come in and go, “Wow, I didn’t know about that,” or “I never heard about that tool. I never heard about that conference.” So we’re just trying to help authors figure out how to sell more in a short news-type format. So far, people have really enjoyed it.
The reviews on iTunes have been really positive and I think there is definitely a space for that really efficient podcast where you get in, get what you need and get out.
Well, thanks. I can’t wait to have you on the show. [Jim had me on the show a few days after this interview was conducted. See episode #5 of the Sell More Books Show.]
Finally, I’d like to talk a little bit about the conference that you’re hosting this fall in Cleveland.
We are doing our first live, in-person event in Cleveland, Ohio, September 8th, 2014 called AuthorMarketingLive.com. Actually, J, you’re going to be a speaker at that event.
That’s correct. I’ll be there.
You have an amazing title for your agenda listing which is “From Two Books a Day to Two Hundred Books a Day—How I Did It,” which I cannot wait to see.
It’s been quite a ride and I think the important part about that title is the fact that everyone starts selling two books a day (or less) like I did in 2011. Everyone has to start in the same place and I want to help others take those first steps.
Exactly. So this is an in-person, live event where people can come together and learn everything about boosting their writing career and selling more books and email marketing and how to use social media to get more readers and how to put together an audio book and more. We have Johnny B. Truant from “The Self-Publishing Podcast.” He’s going to give the closing keynote and that’s going to be super exciting as well.
I’m looking forward to that as well. The guys at “The Self-Publishing Podcast”—Johnny, Sean and Dave—they’re really out front and I’m so curious to hear Johnny speak. Fiction Unboxed will be long completed by then. [see Fiction Unboxed at Kickstarter.com]
I’m hoping he will be sharing some of the results from that because it was a really neat thing that he put together.
People say, “Jim, why aren’t you doing it online? Why are you doing it in person in Cleveland?” The reason I’m doing it in person is because, number one, there are so many online conferences that you go to and personally I don’t believe you get the same value from watching something online as you do from sitting down, meeting, greeting, networking with real live industry experts and other authors. The connections that I’ve made with people at conferences that I go to have boosted my career and my writing so much that I can’t even measure it. And the friendships I’ve made in my industry by visiting conferences and meeting people face-to-face—there’s just something different about being there in-person. Flights to Cleveland are cheap. You can get out here for under 250 bucks and the ticket to the event is only $149, so come on out.
Cleveland in the fall is really spectacular and you’ve got the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame here and there is really so much to do if you wanted to extend your stay or come early. The conference is limited to 150 seats, so you’re going to get up close and personal with all these people. You’re going to have the ability to have conversations about your particular career path or your writing project, and you don’t get that same thing in an online conference.
Conversations with you as well. They’re going to be able to meet you in person.
That’s right, and I’m looking forward to talking to the people on the panels and the presenters, too. It’s going to be a great experience and I hope people take the opportunity to come to Cleveland and check it out.
Me, too. I’m excited to meet you out there. We’ve met in person before and I’m excited to see your presentation. So everybody come on out.
Absolutely. In closing, Jim, I was wondering if you could give us a summary of how you see the self-publishing landscape at the moment in May of 2014? What’s it look like from your perspective?
Things are looking up. It is an amazing time to be a fiction or non-fiction writer. Take that story out of your head and write it down and send it out to the world. There’s never been a greater time in the history of the world to be able to take your skills, your knowledge, your expertise, your stories and put them out there for almost nothing and get them in front of millions and millions of people. And self-publishing is such a revolution that’s happening right now where anyone can take those stories and put them out in front of people and find success. Of course, there are not a lot of people who just become successful, who just throw the book up there and overnight become successful. It doesn’t work like that and you can attest to that. But what I love about it is the opportunity. I never was a big fan of gatekeepers. I didn’t like people who decided if I had the chance to be successful or not and that’s what the traditional publishers do. My book couldn’t get out there without self-publishing because they decided if my content was good enough. Now everyone has the opportunity. The question for you, as an author or somebody who wants to write a book, is do you want to take the opportunity in front of you and do it? Because if you do, you’re going to see many things happen. You’re going to possibly see a new profit center for you, a new writing career. You may write a book for your career or a book on your expertise in your industry and use that to leverage better jobs or higher paychecks or speaking engagements. There are so many great things that happen when you publish a book. So sit down, start writing, make a plan and get it done, because you’re going to be really happy when you do it.
Excellent. Thanks for your time, Jim.
Author Marketing Club
Author Marketing Live
Sell More Books Show
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