HTML in Amazon’s Author Central

As I briefly blogged yesterday I have been playing or more accurately trying to play with my book descriptions on Amazon.  This follows several GoodReads forum discussions on marketing and how we as authors, can persuade you as readers, to buy our books.  The flat nature of a typical Amazon book description does not help to catch the eye of a passing potential buyer.  On one particular forum, here,  it lead to the author of a new book on the subject both promoting his book but also talking about how it was done.  I even became a test case for him and he has kindly shown on his blog where I ran into trouble, which we both then spent some detective work trying to sort out.

My experience shows up in screen shots on Marcus’ blog here.  You can get the full down and dirty in his book here which discusses the how to and gives practical examples.  This though is about the problems we overcame initially.

Problem One

I didn’t have the same lay out on my Amazon Author Central account as discussed in the book.  Following an exchange of Goodreads messages with Marcus I approached Amazon support and received a completely unhelpful response which told me what I already knew.  I had an Amazon.co.uk Author Central Account not an Amazon.com one.  What they didn’t tell me was that I could get a .com one just as easily.  Marcus told me that follwing an alternative suggestion, which I also couldn’t do, about noms de plume.

Problem One was then solved by creating an Amazon.com Author Central Account and claiming my books on sale in Amazon.com.

Problem Two

Each version of the book has its own details section, which are not pre-populated.  I was horrified to see for example that the hardback description for my first book An Agent’s Demise had no description despite the editions being linked.  Likewise my author profile for each edition was missing.  Several frustrating hours later all were populated.  There is also another section to fill in for Shelfari which also needs to be filled in but only on their site and again it doesn’t copy from editions so I haven’t finished doing that yet.  The screen shot below show the unfilled in sections but you have to go to Shelfari and open an account (you can use your Amazon author account) to fill this in and then it backfills – what a pain.

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 08.32.07Problem solved with a lot of copying and pasting

Problem Three

Now I can actually get round to doing the thing I went on Author Central to do, namely use some of the clever stuff to enhance my book description.  Now I’m not an HTML genius and my eyes aren’t as good as I wished they were, especially when I forget to wear my reading glasses.  Some parts seemed to work fine.  The formatting of text is fine.  My main problem was the more advanced elements like video and Amazon widgets.  I managed to get both working at one point but not formatted position wise.  When I adjusted they all stopped.  After some further action I have managed to get it all working, but you do have to be very careful and precise.  If you visit To The Survivors on Amazon.com, you can see all the elements working.

Problem solved after some fiddling and correcting my errors

Problem Four

Not really a problem but the process does take a lot of time, copying, editing, pasting, checking and then waiting for Amazon’s servers to deliver the new code because the Author Central platform doesn’t show you what it actually looks like.   You have to wait about 30 minutes for it to upgrade, then find out that something isn’t right, then check the sales site, then re-edit and start again.  If you think this will be a quick process then think again especially to do several books then get all the descriptions sorted.  Then there is the author profile which can also be adjusted…

Verdict

The techniques do work although they could be overdone if you are not careful.  From my personal design perspective the Amazon page is already crowded with Amazon stuff like recommendations OneClick and so on.  I’ll be experimenting further if I have time to get other changes made like font colours and so on.  I know it’s my errors, but I’m supposed to be working, or writing my next book, not playing with HTML code.  If Amazon were a little more forthcoming on the formatting of Product Descriptions then maybe we wouldn’t have to bother in the meantime give it a try.  Marcus’ book is not cheap but it is worth it.

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