How to support bricks & mortar bookshops with IndieBound links

As is the case with most children’s authors, my books sales are predominantly in print, with many being at school events. But I’ve also sold very respectable numbers (running into the 100s) in local bricks and mortar stores, including several branches of Waterstones in southwest London, and smaller independent bookshops such as The Barnes Bookshop (I’ve sold more than 100 here), Sheen Bookshop, Wimbledon Books and The Notting Hill Bookshop.

Image of 5 bookshop windows

Some local bookshops that stock my books…

Supporting bookshop stockists with links and mentions

Until now I’ve made an effort to promote my bricks and mortar bookshops stockists by including mentions and website links in relevant book page blog posts or ‘How to order’ paragraphs. However, I’ve long been conscious that plastered down the right-hand side of every page have been book thumbnails that link out only to Amazon.

Adding sidebar links to IndieBound search pages

IndieBound logo

Connects readers with local bookshops

Spurred on after the camaraderie of this weekend’s Barnes Children’s Literature Festival — where my book sales passed through The Barnes Bookshop – and by the launch of the Alliance of Independent Authors’ fantastic and inspired #Authors4Bookstores campaign, I have finally put extra sidebar links in place to enable UK and US readers coming to my site to order my books locally if they prefer. Below I share how I did this to save you time if you have a WordPress site and aren’t sure where to start or, like me, don’t really understand HTML beyond the basics 🙂

Since it’s a well-know fact that web users are in a hurry I wanted the links to sit in context close to each book jacket, and not to confuse matters by adding any extra logos. However, you can of course also use the IndieBound logo above in a generic spot on your blog or website and link to the relevant UK or US search page from it. I plan to do this.

Following this route presupposes that bookshops can order your book in. I own my ISBNs and my distributor is Lightning Source, which supplies the main book wholesalers in the UK, USA and beyond. The wholesalers in turn supply the bricks and mortar bookshops who can see and order my books in their systems. If you have an ISBN that you own and are with Lightning Source or Ingram Spark I believe that most US/UK bookshops located through IndieBound should be able to order your book.

Steps to add sidebar text links to Indiebound

The HTML coding provided below will, I am sure, work for any site. The process I describe is for WordPress blogs ( I use the free one).

1/ In the dashboard choose Appearance > Widgets

2/ Select the ‘Text’ widget and drag it to the area on the page you want it to appear (I use the Primary Widget Area on the right hand side)

Image of Widgets inside WordPress Dashboard

Drag the text widget to your preferred area

3/ Click on the ‘Text’ tab in its new location to open it up (see screenshot below) and then:

  • add the title of your book in the first text field
  • type the code shown in the screenshot below* into the next larger field – or you can of course save yourself time by looking out the IndieBound URL and pasting that in. [I tried to include all of the coding as body text to enable you to select and copy/paste it, but WordPress stripped it out!]
  • (optional) edit the text the reader will see if necessary (eg instead of ‘UK Bookshops’ it could say ‘Order from you local UK bookshop’. I had this to start with, but felt it was taking up too much room).
  • *note that the last part of the coding shows how I have also provided contextual links to Amazon and Barnes & Noble – this is for info only and for you to omit or adapt for your own book as necessary.

The Secret Lake text widget (2nd one down)

Image of text widget & example coding in WordPress

Adding code & links to with the text widget

  • The above coding translates into this at the front end:Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 13.26.54If you have inserted a picture below in the widget area, the overall look is as below and as seen on the right-hand side of this blog page. (I choose to add a ‘Buy from Amazon’ caption on each image and this goes to the relevant Amazon page based on the reader’s location). While I still feel a little bad adding the Amazon link, the reality is that many customers will be looking for this – and I’m in business just like everyone else is to sell books  – so it feels madness not to provide it!Image of The Secret Lake book cover and links to where to buy it

Top Tip: Once you’ve tested the coding, copy and paste it all into a Word document to use or edit in the future if you need to change anything.

Read more about the Author4Bookstores Campaign here

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Barnes Children’s Literature Festival Sat 25 April ~ what goes around comes around

Since the The Secret Lake first came out back in 2011 it’s been heartwarming to see just how far industry attitudes towards self-publishing have evolved. We’re now entering a period where the lines are truly beginning to blur in the minds of booksellers, the press, event organisers and publishers when it comes to deciding what makes a good read, and where the next big thing readers will want might come from. This change in perceptions from the people who help introduce readers to new authors and put books in readers’ hands is undoubtedly good news for all involved.

It’s therefore with perhaps less surprise than I might once have anticipated that I’m thrilled to announce my inclusion in the inaugural Barnes Children’s Literature Festival, which takes place on Saturday 25 April in southwest London.

Barnes Children’s Literature Festival

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 19.09.32

Barnes Children’s Literature Festival – click to visit the website

As you may be able to see from above, this festival – organised by book publicist and local mum of two girls, Amanda Brettargh – is thinking big. It includes a fantastic line-up of award-winning authors for children of all ages – so if you’re within reach of southwest London and have children aged from 3-12  I’d highly recommend coming along.

Barnes village lies a mile or so south of Hammersmith Bridge. It’s a lovely place to spend the day – we have our very own duck pond and village green, plenty of cafes, delis, family-friendly pubs and restaurants, the river Thames at the top of the high street and one of the coolest cinemas in London – on which more below!

Barnes pond, Barnes, London SW13

Barnes Pond – Barnes village is a five-minute bus ride south of Hammersmith Bridge

 So who will be there …?

Well, here are just a few tasters… (you’ll find a link to the full programme below)

  • Multi-award-winning picture-book author, Chris Haughton – not only will he be bringing his fabulous picture books to life at his own session, there’s also the UK  premiere of the stage production of his award-winning picture book  ‘A Bit Lost’
  • Picture book illustrator Alex Scheffler – of Gruffalo fame – say no more!
  • Abbie Longstaff – author of The Fairytale Hairdresser series
  • Sally Gardner –award winning author of ‘Maggot Moon’ – at the festival she’ll be talking about what makes a good detective and her fairy detective series ‘Wings & Co’
  • Author-illustrator David Mackintosh – who’ll be drawing as well as reading from his latest book ‘Lucky’
  • Marcia Williams – author of the acclaimed  ‘Archie’s War’ – a child’s scrapbook of the First World War
  • Jim Smith – author of ‘I am not a loser’ series
  • Piers Torday – introducing his new novel ‘The Wild Beyond’ – the final in his trilogy
  • Horrible Histories® illustrator Martin Brown
  • Britain’s favourite poet and local resident Roger McGough who has even penned a poem for the festival!

There will also be book-to-film cinema events curated by Guardian film critic, Danny Leigh, at the ultra cool Olympic Studios. And Julia Eccleshare, children’s books editor of The Guardian, will be interviewing teenage author Helena Coggan.

For my own part, I’ll be introducing 7-10 year-olds to my popular graphic novel Eeek! The Runaway Alien – you can find out more about my session here

The above really is just a samplesee the full programme and book tickets here. (All ticket sale proceeds go to charity.)

Making the cut: thanks to my local bookshops & schools

Needless to say I’m both proud and honoured to be part of the festival. And while being a local author clearly helped, I am in no doubt that this alone was by no means enough. I earned my place through my track record, which in turn is inextricably linked to the support I’ve had locally.

Those of you who follow my blog will know that I regularly take my books into schools in southwest London and have hosted many signing events in local bookshops and Waterstones (one of the UK’s main bookshop chains) – all of whom have been incredibly receptive and have stocked my books from the outset, often placing them face-out with shelf-talkers that I supply.

The success of my signing events and school visits, coupled with strong sales more widely – especially for The Secret Lake – speak for themselves. Without this track record and all the hard work it has entailed over the last few years I am in no doubt that entry to the festival would not have been possible.

So I’d like to say thank you to the Barnes Children’s Literature Festival – and to southwest London yet again – for giving me this next opportunity. And thank you to my local bookshops, notably The Barnes Bookshop (through which my festival sales will pass), Sheen Books, Wimbledon Books and seven branches of Waterstones in southwest London. Also thanks to so many local schools for having me in and to the local press for so often sharing my stories. But most of all, thank you to my young readers, both near and far!

Barnes Bookshop

The Barnes Bookshop – with Eeek! poster in the window during the World Cup 🙂

Festivals and book fairs of the future

With Foyles Bookshop hosting the Indie Author Fair at their flagship store in Charing Cross on 17 April as part of London Book and Screen Week and Debbie Young hosting the inaugural Hawkesbury Upton Literary Festival on World Book Night 23 April  we are already seeing a shift in the nature and landscape of literature festivals. (Not forgetting, of course, the Indie Author Fringe Festival that ran alongside the Chorleywood Literary Festival last November).

So here’s to bookshops, litfest organisers and authors themselves for helping reshape the future of book selling in this brave new world. I’m sure we all agree that these changes are for everyone’s benefit – author, reader and bookseller alike.

Getting to Barnes

If you’re on public transport it’s a five-minute bus ride or 20-minute walk from Hammersmith Tube, or a five-minute walk from Barnes or Barnes Bridge over-ground stations. If you’re driving you’ll find parking in the streets a few minutes walk away from the immediate central village area.

Click here to view the full programme and book tickets to the
Barnes Children’s Literature Festival

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The Writers’ Advice Centre for Children’s Books

A seriously good option for self-publishing children’s authors

We all know that the golden rule of self-publishing is never to put out your book without first getting feedback, ideally using beta readers to start with – and most certainly using a professional editor.

With this in mind I’ll get straight to the point and tell you about the review and editing service offered by The Writers’ Advice Centre for Children’s Books, run by Louise Jordan.

Image of Writers' Advice Centre for Children's Books website home page

The Writers’ Advice Centre for Children’s Book offers advice and training to children’s authors

Louise, who co-founded Writers’ Advice in 1994, is ex-Head Reader for Puffin UK, and a children’s literary scout with over 20 years’ experience in the industry – oh, and an all-round lovely person!

Image of Louise Jordan

Louise Jordan – ex Head Reader for Puffin UK

My early encounter with Writers’ Advice…

I discovered Writers’ Advice back in late 1990s, a few years after I had started to write children’s books – and attended one of Louise’s excellent one-day workshops on writing for children.

Writers’ Advice still runs those workshops – as well as home study courses – but training isn’t all that’s on offer. Louise and her team of experienced children’s publishing professionals will give you frank and constructive feedback on your children’s book manuscript – whatever stage it’s at. The review takes into account everything from your book’s theme, to its plot, overall structure, characterisation, viewpoint, dialogue and target age group. They’ll also give you advice on how to approach publishers if that’s your aim.

How Writers’ Advice helped me with The Secret Lake

A year after attending Louise’s course – and reading her excellent book How To Write For Children And Get Published – I had my first draft of The Secret Lake ready, and used the Writers’ Advice manuscript appraisal service. After taking on board that feedback I then sent in a further draft.

The Secret Lake by Karen Inglis

Over 6,000 copies sold…

Looking back at the reports I received I realise just how instrumental they were in helping me move the story in the right direction.

  • I had the children grow up by the end of the story (what on earth was I thinking? – cut and major rework – kids aren’t interested in reading about adults!)
  • My opening was way too slow (Louise suggested I move a scene which is now the opening to the book…)
  • Certain key plot elements needed teasing out for the readers’ benefit – even though they were clear in my head
  • The children’s dialogue was way too mature in places…

These are but a few examples: suffice it to say that the feedback provided at all levels was thorough and, most importantly, highly practical.

How the reports looked back then…

Back in those days the advice service was all conducted by snail mail – authors sent manuscripts by post and received a feedback report a few weeks later.

Image of report on The Secret Lake

Early reports – circa 1999/2000

Here’s an excerpt from inside the second report I received back for The Secret Lake 🙂 I went on to write many more drafts after this (after leaving the story in a box for 10 years!) – in the later stages working with a close colleague and editor friend, Bridget Rendell, but many fundamental issues were solved by that time and I felt a lot more confident about my writing thanks to the advice I had received already.

Image of manuscript text

The Writers’ Advice Centre’s report on The Secret Lake

     I also sent an early draft of Eeek! The Runaway Alien to the Writers’ Advice Centre, as well as a clutch of shorter stories, including my rhyming tales about Ferdinand Fox – oh and one other story that’s still on my hard drive…watch this space!

Of course times have changed and documents are now usually exchanged online, though you can choose a postal service if you prefer. Louise also offers telephone and face-to-face feedback.

All of these services come at very reasonable prices, based on word count – or length of call if using the phone service. Use the links below to find out more.

An editorial service ahead of its time….

Writers’ Advice was originally set up to help aspiring children’s authors improve their chances of getting picked up by an agent or publisher, but it has adapted without fuss to serve the needs of authors looking to self-publish too. In fact as part of their offer they will give you realistic feedback on which route may be best for you. In this sense, I can’t help feeling that it’s a service that was ahead of its time.

As the publishing world continues to transform I’m certain that increasing numbers of freelance editorial services made up of experienced industry professionals will evolve to serve the needs of all writers. These changes are good news for authors and editors alike – each meeting a market need for the other. And of course they are great news for readers too.

In the case of The Writers’ Advice Centre for Children’s Books it’s a case of ‘business as usual’ and welcome to our world!

New Wacky Bee children’s imprint…

Wacky Bee children's publisher logo

Visit the website…

STOP PRESS! Louise Jordan has set up a new imprint, Wacky Bee, and is looking for new titles for her list aimed at ages 5-12.

To be considered for Wacky Bee you must have used the Writers’ Advice Centre’s manuscript appraisal service. Contact or check out the website 

I’ll be doing an interview with Louise on Wacky Bee in the near future – but in the meantime I asked her what her one piece of advice would be to children’s authors.

Here’s what Louise said:

My one piece of advice to writers would be that placing a piece of writing in the market place is a bit like buying or selling a property. It’s all about location, location, location. In other words targeting is the most important thing…and a great writing voice!

Thank you, Louise!

Over to you…

Are you a current or aspiring children’s author?  Please feel free to ask questions or leave a comment below about your own experience of getting feedback on your work, or deciding whether to self-publish or follow the traditional route.

Posted in Blog Update, Children's Books, Editing, Self-publishing, Writing & Editing | 11 Comments

Why I love the new Moms With Apps site

I’ve learned a lot about children’s apps in the 12 months since I launched Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep – not least just how difficult it is to make kids’ apps findable in that vast and swelling ocean that is the App Store.

The App Store Kids’ Category

When Apple introduced its App Store Kids’ Category in July 2013 it was to sighs of relief from both parents and developers…

App Store Kids' Category

  • Parents were promised a place to find kids’ apps that would be free of advertising and protect kids from access to in-app purchasing links.
  • Developers and authors who met Apple’s rules around privacy, advertising and in-app purchases looked forward to a dedicated section of the App Store that they could name and point to in their promotions, and within which they could aim to rise on merit.

The only little hiccup in all of this is that it turns out that the Kids’ Category doesn’t include all qualifying apps – rather it’s made up of a limited selection of Editors’ Picks from them. Given the sheer number of apps out there it’s clear that curation is needed. But I expect I’m not the only developer to be confused and disappointed by the decision to leave the remaining qualifying apps outside in the wider App Store, mixed in with kids’ apps that include advertising and unfettered access to in-app purchases, and often alongside apps aimed at teenagers or adults.

So where, besides the Kids’ Category, can parents go to easily browse safe, ad-free apps for their kids?  Similarly where can authors and developers turn to make their family friendly, ad-free apps easier to find?

 Step up Moms With Apps…

The wonderful new Moms With Apps website brings together over 1,000 safe apps for kids that are designed by parents for parents.

Moms With Apps website imageThese apps not only promise to safeguard children’s privacy and exposure to advertising and in-app purchases – but are also instantly searchable by a wide range of criteria, allowing parents to narrow (or broaden) their choice based on device, age range, educational attributes, special needs, subject matter and much more.

Moms With Apps website search page

As you narrow or broaden your choices the screen instantly updates. Choices are not mutually exclusive.

Know What’s Inside

A key USP of Moms With Apps is their Know What’s Inside program. All developers submitting apps to the site commit to (a) meeting certain quality criteria set by Moms With Apps and (b) making this information clear when promoting the app. The apps are of course vetted for compliance.

Moms With Apps LogoThis means that as you browse the site, each app’s product page spells out exactly what you will find inside in the way of privacy settings and links, and whether or not these are behind a parental gate. No apps contain advertising.

Excerpt from Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep product page 

Ferdinand Fox's Big Sleep - on Moms With Apps

On every app’s product page it clearly states what’s inside the app – click the image to visit Ferdinand’s page.

 Easy, simple navigation

Beyond a first-class proposition and content, what is equally pleasing is just how simple the Moms With Apps site is to use. This is web design at its very best – plain English, simple navigation, quick and easy to make purchases. And a very nice touch is that you can read the biogs and see photos of the developers and authors behind the apps.

Meet the authors and developers

Karen Inglis's author page on Moms With Apps website

My author page on Moms With Apps

I can’t remember the last time I felt so enthused about a site – it’s quiet and it’s clean, and it meets a huge market need. If you have kids who use apps, please check it out and help spread the word! So much hard work goes into creating these apps and it’s gratifying to find a site that has put so much into helping parents discover them.

If you have 2-5 year-olds (or young children learning English as a foreign language) do visit Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep via the Moms With Apps page above – it will take you on to the App Store where you’ll find plenty of reviews both in the UK and USA. You can also see demo videos of the app in action here.

The Book App Alliance

Creating quality Book Apps for children

Creating quality Book Apps for children

I can’t end this post without mentioning The Book App Alliance of which I’m a member. Discovering them around the time I launched Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep was a life-saver for me as I felt very much alone in the brave new world of apps. In fact it was not unlike when I discovered that The Alliance of Independent Authors was about to launch and knew that I would at last have a community of like-minded people to swap ideas with.

If you’re a librarian, teacher, reviewer or in publishing, or have a professional interest in interactive reading for kids, you can become an Associate Member of the Alliance for free.

Whether you’re an author, developer or parent/teacher/librarian – please feel free to leave comments below about how you go about finding or indeed promoting your app.  For the record, I’ll be posting separately on the thorny issue of paid vs “free” apps in due course.  And if you’re new to my site and are an author thinking about app development, don’t miss my post last year on creating a children’s book app.


Posted in Apps, Marketing | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Apple iBooks – Marketing and Discovery Tips

This article was updated on 18 April 2016, spurred on by Joanna Penn’s great post on a similar theme here. (Joanna covers more aspects than I do and has some great practical examples using her own books, so definitely read both.)

My original article appeared in June 2014 after a visit to Apple. Some example screenshots and links below I have updated today, but the key principles remain. Feel free to add new comments if anything is unclear – and be sure also to see Joanna’s post above 🙂

While it’s common knowledge that most ebooks sales occur through Amazon’s Kindle store, significant numbers of Indie authors are choosing to spread their books across other platforms in order to reach new global readers for whom the Kindle isn’t (*gasp*) the reading device of choice.

iBooks, Kobo (now taking on Sony titles) and Nook Press, to name three obvious alternatives, all offer the opportunity to reach new audiences, and while sales on these platforms are modest for most authors compared with Kindle sales, savvy indie authors are taking a long-term view. Some upload direct, while others use distributors such as Smashwords. And as e-reading starts to take off in new global markets we are all keeping a close eye on the trends for which reading devices are being used and where.

Image of iTunes Connect landing page

iTunes Connect – for distributing direct to the iBooks Store

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 21.35.32

Self-publishing sign-up page at Kobo

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Nook Press – for self-publishing direct to Nook

The good news is that many of these alternative platforms are keen to reach out to indie authors to help us market our books on a level playing field with traditionally published authors. At the same time, I’m sure these platforms recognise that indie authors (not unknown for our steely determination and being ahead of the curve!) are in an excellent position to help them spread the word about what they can offer us. This blog post is a case in point…

It’s with this in mind that I wanted to highlight some tips and tools in relation to the iBooks Store. If your book is already listed in the iBooks Store, what follows may help you with discovery and marketing if you’ve been too busy to read the small print. And if you aren’t listed, it may tempt you to give iBooks a go for the first time.

iBooks logoMost of the information below is available on Apple’s website, and it isn’t necessarily all new – but as with all things it’s a matter of taking the time to find it out. Other snippets have come from conversations with people who know better than I do – I hope you’ll find the info of use!

First things first – what and where is the iBooks Store?

I was long confused about where and how the iBook Store operated when sitting at my desk, largely as it seemed to be a subset of iTunes that was always difficult to find when on my iMac. And when I did finally get there, I found that I couldn’t actually sample or read any books at my desk – instead, after buying a book or ordering a sample, I had to go to my iPad to pick it up.

The good news is that after October 2013 Apple made the iBooks App available on Apple desktops as well as iOS mobile devices – meaning you don’t have to fire up iTunes to browse for books.

Image of icons in dock on iMack

iBooks App in my iMac dock

The iBooks app consists of :

  • The iBook store where you can browse, search for and buy books
  • Your iBooks library – your books and samples download into here ready for reading

iBooks works across all Apple platforms, which means you can browse, buy and read iBooks directly from your iMac or MacBook as well as from your iPad, iPod Touch or iPhone.

The iBooks app comes pre-installed on Apple desktop computers running on the latest operating systems and (as I understand it) is available as a free download / upgrade for anyone with older devices which didn’t come with it.

Unfortunately the iBooks app isn’t available for PCs or Android devices – you still need to shop for iBooks in iTunes and then send them to your nominated iOS device to read. This is a pity – however given that there are over 800 million iOS devices in 51 countries worldwide, that’s still a lot of potential customers with an easier route than previously to the iBook store!

iBooks categories and collections

As with all online stores, iBooks is broken out into a wide range of categories and sub-categories – both by genre and, alongside or within these, other collections such as ‘What’s hot’ ‘Editor’s picks’, ‘Summer reads’ ‘Newly released’ and so on…

Much of this content is curated rather than being algorithm driven – so clearly the Holy Grail for any author is to find ways to increase their chances of being featured on the front page or in editors’ picks for their category.

In iBooks there are two key places to be featured in any given section – these being in the top carousel, or listed in the title rows that appear further down as seen in the screenshots below.

iBooks Store Landing Page snapshot (updated April 2016)

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 21.29.20

 Children’s books landing page snapshot (updated April 2016)

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 21.26.20Good news! iBooks is welcoming Indie Authors

Back in 2014 when I first wrote this post Apple was actively increasing the number of indie titles it was including in these promo areas. I was told that around 80% of the Romance section was made up of Indie Author books at that time, of which which many featured in the front-page promotional spots. It seems that Apple is expanding indie presence in far more areas today and is still keen to support work with indie authors who have quality books to sell.

Back in 2014 iBooks also ran periodic promotions of Indie Authors in a section called ‘Breakout books’ – designed to help raise the profile of hand-picked indie titles. These promos ran at different times in different territory stores, but were another concrete sign of Apple’s desire to make indie authors more discoverable. [At the time of this update I’ve not had time to check whether this feature is still running…to be updated shortly.]

Image of Breakout Books section in the iBooks Store

Breakout Books Snapshot in the UK store on 30 June 2014 – quick link access on right hand side

In short, the mood music is good – so how do we dance to its tune?


The rest of this post covers three interdependent themes:

  • Tips to increase you chance of inclusion on iBooks’ front pages
  • Making the most of iBooks’ marketing programs
  • Using the iBooks link builders and widgets to market your book

1. Tips to increase your chance of inclusion on iBooks’ front pages

While there’s certainly no magic bullet for being selected for a feature slot or title row, it seems there are plenty of things you can do to avoid being passed over – and other things you can do to help yourself stand out from the crowd. Some of these are common sense and most savvy indie authors will be doing them already. Other may be less obvious. In the interests of completeness, I’m including them all below.

The Dos

  • Do use a striking image at a high resolution for your book cover (300dpi / 1400 pixels wide on the smallest side). Try to use a cover that stands out rather than blends in with the competition in your category (something I’m sure we all aim to do!) – and if possible one that lends itself to be ‘taken apart’ and adapted to make striking promo banners when zooming in on key elements.  These examples from the 2014 iBooks store stood out to me at the time, and still work now:
Image from book jacket

Featured book on iBooks on 30 June 2014 – a distinctive image with striking close-up

Image of a romance book cover

Featured book in iBookstore on 30 June 2014 – zooming in on cover image element works well

  • Do complete metadata fully and accurately – it will help Apple editorial teams find your book if searching for genres to feature.
  • Do pick the right categories for you book – picking an inappropriate category could harm your chances of selection for a featured slot (applies generally, but for Romance writers see more on this below under ‘Don’ts)
  • Do check your formatting – Apple’s editors read your content and they clearly won’t be featuring a sloppily presented book! Savvy indie authors will be doing this already, naturally.
  • Do check and fix any broken links – as above.
  • Do promote and link to your book via your blog: if Apple see that you’re sending customers to their store and you already fulfil the criteria above, it stands to reason that you’ll earn yourself extra brownie points – see below for some of tools, tips and coding they provide to help you with this.

The Don’ts

  • Don’t put fully naked images on your book cover if you want to be featured – these will never appear on landing pages due to issues with children potentially stumbling across them.
  • Don’t put a contemporary romance novel in the erotica category just because it has a bit of love and sex. I’ve heard that erotica won’t ever be featured on the front page so using it to try to increase your sales will probably have the opposite effect in terms of discoverability.

Other basics to avoid…these may result in a file rejection at upload

  • Don’t put any links to competitor sites in your book (a link to your blog which has links to competitor sites as well as to the iBook store is apparently fine).
  • Don’t put the price on the jacket or in the book.
  • Don’t using 3-D images for your book cover.

2. Making the most of iBooks marketing programs 

 Using pre-orders to promote your iBooks title

One area where Apple is ahead of the game on Amazon is allowing e-book pre-orders up to a year ahead of the publication date. Apple actively merchandises pre-orders on its front pages – and all pre-orders get picked up and ranked in the pre-order charts for their genre.

You don’t have to have a final ePub or a book jacket to set up a pre-order page – you can use a placeholder jacket if you wish.

Image of 'Coming soon' books titles in Apple's iBook store

A snapshot of pre-order titles on 30 June 2014 – note that you don’t have to have a jacket

Once the pre-order page is set up you can then create PR opportunities for milestones in the lead-up to publication such as:

  • counting down to and announcing your ‘Jacket reveal’
  • doing chapter reveals on your blog or FB page with links to the pre-order page
  • counting down in ‘weeks’ ‘days’ and ‘hours’ to your launch
  • providing a ‘sneak peek’ or exclusive pre-order , which will increase your chances of being featured (more on this below)
  • actual launch date promos

The great thing about this system is that each PR opportunity potentially leads to more pre-orders, which in turn affect pre-order chart ranking. And when the book finally launches you benefit from the pre-orders sales themselves as orders complete, increasing the chances of a sales spike and your book appearing in the bestsellers’ lists.

Offering ‘Sneak peek’ or ‘early release’ exclusives

If you look in the iBooks Store, you’ll see some authors offering exclusives ‘sneak peeks’ at excerpts from their book ahead of the release date. Common sense suggests that if you offer this kind of exclusive during the pre-order period – which involves uploading a sample that customers can preview – you’ll increase the chances of your pre-order title being featured.

The same goes for offering early release exclusives – whereby you opt to publish your book with iBooks ahead of other retailers.

Apparently some indie authors have achieved 80% of their sales via iBooks after giving early exclusivity to Apple. While this may be the exception (and possibly only the case in certain categories) it’s worth considering!

3. Using the iBooks link builders and widgets to market your book

Apple offers some pretty cool tools to help you market books from your site. These come in the form of widgets, which mean that they won’t work if you have a free WordPress blog. However there is a simple workaround which is to use the tool to build the button you want and then take a copy/screenshot of it. You can then upload this to WordPress as an image and stick the custom URL behind it 🙂  I’ve demonstrated this below.

Image of Apple's link maker landing page

The link maker works for all products – not just books. Read below for link behaviour once clicked.

The tools are:

Link Maker

  • This provides links to your iBookstore product page using the apple badges – available in a variety of sizes. See example below, using my time travel mystery for ages 8-11 ‘The Secret Lake’.
  • Any customer who is on a mobile iOS device (iPad, iPhone or iPod touch) when they click on this links, will be taken directly to the product page for your book in their country’s iBook Store (even though you are asked to select one country code for that link at the outset – see screenshot above).
  • Less satisfactorily, if the customer is on their desktop (Mac or PC) they will be taken to an iTunes preview page showing the price in the currency selected inside the widget. Once the customer clicks the ‘view in iBooks’ button they are taken to their own territory’s iBooks Store page, or iTunes page if they don’t have access to the iBooks App. Being presented with the wrong territory’s product page is a confusing customer journey that I hope Apple will fix at some stage.
  • If you host your own site or use you will be able to insert the widget code directly and the image will appear in your chosen format from those available, complete with the embedded link. As I have the free WordPress site I can’t do this (external widgets aren’t allowed) so I’ve used a workaround by taking a screenshot of the badge I created with the link maker, then adding the ‘direct link’ URL (found just below the image when you use the link maker) separately.

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 20.41.41

Banner Builder

  • Allows you to create banners in different sizes for use on your site – in this example I’ve used my enhanced eBook, Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep. It comes with word highlighting and my own narration – wonderful for ages 3-6 🙂 Again I took a screenshot of the banner for my workaround and then added the direct link URL.

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 20.56.12

Auto link maker

  • This provides affiliate links to your product page. I’ve not read up on this in detail but you apparently earn 7% commission in the affiliate program on anything the users buys in the Apple Store (anywhere – not just the iBooks Store) for 24 hours after you first sent them there – no matter how many separate contacts they make and the tracking is apparently very transparent.
  • Widget Builder – I’ve not yet played with this properly but it includes the facility to link to a chosen book, music track or playlist in iTunes – which means you could perhaps associate your book with a given sound track. Sounds great fun 🙂
  • RSS Generator – allows you to create custom feeds to ‘Top 10’ lists of Apple Products by type (books, audiobooks, music, apps, podcasts etc) on your site – if you’re in the affiliate program this will again earn you commission.

Author page links

Your Author page in iBooks will list all of your titles – as well as any pre-order titles. To find your author page URL, right click on your author name on your product page and copy it from there. Again you can use this for promotions and it will send users to your author page in their own store provided they are on a mobile iOS device.

Linking books in a series

If you have books in a series, Apple allows you to link them so that the landing page for the book will show all other books in that series. You set this up in iTunes producer if you upload directly to iBooks. If your books are submitted via a third party they will know how to do this and/or you can contact apple support and they will email you instructions. Once you link the books in one store, this will translate into all the other stores globally.

 Final marketing tip…

One general common sense tip within your marketing mix if you have books in different stores is to include targetting social media promo messages to different device users rather than using a one-size-fits all approach. For example when tweeting think about creating separate tweets aimed at users of Kindle, iBooks, Kobo, Nook etc by using hashtags to catch those audiences on twitter and link them direct to your book’s product page in the store in question.

This article was updated on 18 April 2016

Please note that I updated this article with new links in April 2016 – the book I was previously linking to no longer was available in the iBooks Store and I have instead swapped in my own books.

If there’s anything I’ve missed, not got quite right, or that you’d like to add to help others thinking of self-publishing to the iBooks Store please do still leave a comment.

Karen (updated 18 April 2016)


Posted in iBooks, Self-publishing | 28 Comments