Publishing a book series is a popular strategy these days and few would question the value of using SEO techniques to help readers find them. The challenge in my experience has more to do with the planning required and having enough “product” to make the effort pay off. I don’t yet have enough data to speak to the ROI but I can share a case study from a recently completed client project for the San Diego Reader.
I’ve been managing their book publishing initiative for the past year and we just finished a seven-book series. I’d like to profile the series by sharing the branding strategy and SEO considerations, to name just two areas of focus.
San Diego Reader Books: the Reader Local series
The San Diego Reader was founded in 1972 as an “alternative weekly” newspaper and continues to be a leader in its category at the national level. A little over a year ago the Reader decided to publish some of it’s a writing as eBooks. It’s been a way for them to re-surface popular stories but also develop new approaches for serving its community of readers. During the past year we’ve published two print books and 25 eBooks, seven of which are part of the Reader Local series.
The Reader Local series is unique from the other Reader books in several ways:
- It includes new content that complements archive content.
- It takes advantage of additional resources using external links.
- The content is specific to a geographic region.
- The subject (community in this case) corresponds to the same subject/community on the Reader website.
Our goal was to try to capture the soul of the community–everything you'd need to know to call yourself a local–into a handy package you can read on your mobile phone. Being able to market each eBook to its namesake community was key.
That said, it continues to share three design elements with the other 18 (so far!) eBooks to maintain brand congruency:
- The semi-transparent stripe down the left side.
- The red wave trademark.
- The short, two-word series name in the same typeface, under the trademarked logo.
Implementing SEO elements from the start
Readers of this blog know that there are eight key fields—at least on Amazon—that you can use to optimize your eBook listing. In the case of Reader Local we are using all eight fields which of course includes the seldom used series field.
Another thing we did was to use HTML for the title tag and bullets. I think that using “Amazon orange” for a title helps pull the reader’s eyes down the page to the description because the title color looks like important information added by Amazon. Use <H2> for these. This won’t work for other stores but then those won’t sell as many books for the average indie publisher.
Adding keywords was a bit more challenging because these are hyper-local eBooks. Because all seven books are regional, if not national (and international) destinations, I focused on local landmarks that visitors and tourists might search for. The Amazon search bar was somewhat helpful but I used Google as well. If you use Amazon’s search box for suggestions be sure to be in the Kindle Books store.
Lessons and observations
One big mistake I made at the outset was to call these guides. We launched the La Jolla edition, our first, and promptly got a 3-star review because our metadata overstated the depth and type of content. The lesson learned was as good of a keyword as ‘guide’ is, it was a misnomer for books in this series. We didn’t deliver on that meaning. We pulled the book from the market and rethought the series as ‘Reader Local’ for the series name and titled each one to begin with the two words ‘All Things’ [community name] (we can credit the Reader’s Jane Belanger for that inspiration).
About midway through the cover designs I saw one style of presenting the content on the cover that I really liked (Ocean Beach). Some might argue that it isn’t wise to make each cover too cookie-cutter but I thought it helped bring the eye to the same location each time. In the end it was decided that the content varied too much to try and standardize this.
So what do you think of these as a series design? Too cookie-cutter? Not uniform enough? Drop your feedback in the comments: