Readers love to know more about authors. Before buying the book, they look to the author’s biography to learn what it is about their background or professional qualifications that makes them the right writer for the book. They look on the jacket flap; they search for the author’s website; they click the author’s name beneath the book title on Amazon.com.
Take Patricia Cornwell, author of the highly acclaimed Kay Scarpetta series, for example. Her website states, “After earning her degree in English from Davidson College in 1979, she began working at the Charlotte Observer, taking whatever stories came her way and rapidly advancing from listing television programs to covering the police beat. Cornwell received widespread attention and praise for her series of articles on prostitution and crime in downtown Charlotte. From the Charlotte Observer, Cornwell moved to a job with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia – a post she would later bestow upon the fictional Kay Scarpetta. It was during these years that Patricia penned Postmortem and began submitting it to major publishing houses in New York…” Her site also lists “Other areas of expertise & interests” – SCUBA, ballistics, Jack the Ripper, and more. So, she’s got some experience to write forensic thrillers – she’s not just sitting at home shooing cats off her keyboard.
Patricia Cornwell has sold over 100 million books! After a brief twinge of envy, fellow authors as well as readers may wonder what Cornwell was doing when she wrote her first book. Should they quit their day jobs to focus on the novel? “She sold her first novel, Postmortem, while working as a computer analyst at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond, Virginia. Postmortem, was the first bona fide forensic thriller. It paved the way for an explosion of entertainment featuring in all things forensic across film, television and literature.”
Was it luck? Did success come easily for Patricia Cornwell? “The transition to literary superstar was not easy. At her first signing, held during a lunch break from the morgue, Patricia sold no copies of Postmortem and fielded exactly one question – an elderly woman asked her where she could find the cookbooks.” Ah! She’s human, after all. The envy subsides a little. We can relate to her and marvel at how far she’s come since that discouraging day.
Where does the author find inspiration? When is the next book coming? What other projects are they working on now? “When not writing from her Boston home, Patricia tirelessly researches cutting-edge forensic technologies to include in her work. Her interests span outside the literary: Patricia co-founded of the Conservation Scientist Chair at the Harvard University Art Museums. She appears as a forensic consultant on CNN and serves as a member of Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital’s National Council, where she advocates for psychiatric research. She’s helped fund the ICU at Cornell’s Animal Hospital, the scientific study of a Confederate submarine, the archaeological excavation of Jamestown, and a variety of law enforcement charities. Patricia is also committed to funding scholarships and literacy programs.”
On her Amazon Author Page, Cornwell has several interesting videos – not your ordinary “book trailers,” but action videos promoting her next book while showing her SCUBA diving, shooting various weapons, and jotting down notes for the book.
Readers turn to the web for news and information to tide them over until the next book is released. These tidbits keep them from wandering off and losing interest as they fall in love with other books and authors.
Amazon Author Central
If you are a published author, not only do you need a bio blurb on your book’s dust jacket or inside the cover, you need a website with a blog, and you need an Amazon Author Central account and an Author Page.
Friends and fans can click the Follow button underneath your profile photo to get notified of new releases, but it may help to tell them that those updates will be posted on a page called Your Follow Updates. This is found under <yourname>’s Amazon.com > Your Profile > click Following (nn) > Your Follow Updates. It’s anything but intuitive!
The best way to get updates to your readers is to encourage them to subscribe to your blog – then link that to Amazon Author Central so anyone viewing your Author Page for the first time can find you, and will see that there are new posts.
Setting Up Your Author Central Account
To set up your Author Central Account on Amazon, complete the following steps:
- Go to https://authorcentral.amazon.com/ and click Join Now.
- Enter your e-mail address and password and click Sign in using our secure server.
- If you have an Amazon.com account, sign in with the e-mail address and password you use on that account.
- If you do not have an existing Amazon.com account, select No, I am a new customer. You will be prompted to enter the necessary information.
- Read the Author Central’s Terms and Conditions, and then click Agree to accept them.
- Enter the name your books are written under. A list of possible book matches appears.
- Select any one of your books. If your book is not in the list, you can search for it by title or ISBN. The book you select must be available for purchase on the Amazon.com website. Selecting the book creates the account.
- Look for a confirmation email from Amazon; use the link in it to confirm your e-mail address and identity.
For books that are not self-published, Amazon will likely contact the publisher to verify your identity. Make sure that your publisher is familiar with the email address you used in connection with your Amazon.com account, to prevent any delays in their confirming that you are who you claim to be.
While you’re waiting for approval, you still can begin to set up your Author page. You can add or edit a photo or biography. You cannot publish this or add a blog or make changes to the books listed your identity is confirmed. If confirmation takes more than seven days, contact Author Central support. Click https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/help/contact-us, then follow these instructions:
- Under “Select an issue,” select My Account.
- Under “Select details,” select I’m not approved yet.
- Select how to contact us.
Author Pages are created for individuals and are not shared by contributors; however, co-authors or illustrators can also join Author Central and manage their own Author Pages. Once confirmed, they will be linked by the book listing and can add each other to their biographies or through a blog post.
One of the key points mentioned in The Top 10 Things All Authors Should Know About Amazon is that your ranking has little to do with actual sales. You can have fun with metrics on Amazon Author Central, if you go to the Sales Info tab. But don’t get too worked up about it, or spend your energy worrying about specific numbers. Are they going up or down? Small numbers are better than big numbers, when it comes to “sales rank.” I have one book that has ranged from 65,000 to nearly 3,000,000. And it regularly fluctuates between the two. Numbers are updated hourly, so it could be celebratory or dirge-worthy, depending on when I look. I try not to look too often, day to day, but rather average it over time.
Today’s a good day.
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