why you need an Amazon Author Central profile

You’re almost there. Your Amazon listing is officially live and ready to be shared, but the word on the street is that you need to set up an Amazon Author Central page too. Isn’t it enough to just sell your books through Amazon? Not quite.

An important rule of bookselling is: if there’s ever an opportunity to connect with your readers, take it. Amazon Author Central is one of those opportunities. 

Author Central is a free and user-friendly online profile that will enhance your author brand and allow you to track sales. It can also be your answer to selling more books. Let’s go over why every author should take the time to create an Amazon Author Central profile.


When should I create an account?

As soon as your Amazon listing is up! You’ll want to optimize your listing and add a profile before sharing your pre-order link with the world. This way, you’ll have a professional-looking page for your first consumers (and this will also help with your Amazon SEO).


Why should I create an account?

There are six elements of an Amazon Author Central profile that can lead you to becoming a bestseller: biography, photos and videos, blog feeds, events, books, and URL. With all of these optimized on your profile, an Amazon Author Central page can… 

Increase your Amazon and Google search rankings. The more active you are on your Author Central page, the higher you will appear in search results with keyword searches. This leads to organic sales and increased traffic to your various pages.

Track your sales performance by country.  The profile will give you sales data through BookScan, a data provider for the book publishing industry, which doesn’t track all sales (only print book sales from bookstores and Amazon sales) but does provide insight on sales trends. 

The sales tracking also includes a ranking, showing how well your book is doing compared to other books on Amazon. With constant access to your sales numbers by country, you’ll be able to observe what sales and marketing techniques are working and what aren’t. 

Make changes to your listing on your own. Amazon gives you more control over any changes you want to make to your listing, such as changing the book description. This immediate and direct control will save you the 48 to 72 hours it typically takes for Amazon to make changes to any listing on their end. 

Increase traffic to all of your book listings, including your websites and social media channels. Since your author page will display all of your books for sale at Amazon, a reader will be able to easily check out your other work. If they liked one of your books, they’re only a few clicks away from browsing the other titles you’ve written. This is an easy way to generate sales. They’ll also have access to your social media platforms and website. Even more, they can follow your Author Central page to receive alerts when you publish a new book. 

Easily monitor book reviews and consumer discussions. Instead of having to constantly refresh your book listings in hopes of reading a new review, you’ll have access to all of your reviews in one place. 

Build your credibility by giving readers a more personal glimpse of who you are. Readers want to know you and feel connected to you. By having photos, videos, a biography, and updates on your life through social media, they’ll continue to support your work. A detailed Author Central profile shows that you’re a professional, one who cares about their readers and has a compelling and trustworthy platform. It’s always a good sign when an author has a strong online presence. The more you can add to your profile, the more readers will feel that they have a personal relationship with you. The goal is to create a powerful first impression that leaves readers life-long fans.

The increased visibility, credibility, and readership of an Amazon Author Central profile is worth any time you spend optimizing your account. This is an easy marketing resource that you don’t want to miss out on. 


Create your profile now.

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Consolidating the Traditional Publishing Industry: What Will This Mean for Authors?

Penguin Random House parent company Bertelsmann announced on November 25 that they will be purchasing Simon & Schuster for $2.175 billion, further consolidating the “Big Five” trade publishers into the “Big Four.” The deal will create what many are already calling a “megapublisher.” What does this mean for current and future authors?


Deal or no deal
The merger between PRH and S&S will likely take about a year to close, and many have concerns about whether the deal will go through due to possible legal issues. The Authors Guild released a statement criticizing the potential increase of PRH’s market share, which would rise to between 18.4% and 33% of all book units sold if the merger is completed. They have called on the Justice Department to challenge the deal and all future consolidation between publishing houses. The Guild was joined by the American Booksellers Association and the Association of American Literary Agents, both of which noted the loss of a traditional publishing choice for many authors.


What stays the same
While critics of the deal have been vocal about the way it will change traditional publishing, there are some constants authors can expect.

Retaining Core Identity. PRH CEO Markus Dohle stated that the company has previously demonstrated its ability to “successfully unite company cultures and prestigious publishing teams while preserving each imprint’s identity and independence,” referring to the merger of Penguin and Random House in 2013. Editorial autonomy will remain with each imprint’s publisher, so it is possible little change could trickle down to authors.


What changes
Many authors are wary of the PRH-S&S deal based on the history of consolidation in traditional publishing.

Lower Advances. With fewer competitors, PRH-S&S is more likely to acquire the books it wants for a lower advance. Imprints under the same parent company often don’t bid against one another, so the merged company has less incentive to offer higher advances to authors as there will be fewer imprints competing in auctions. Lower competition and fewer bids for authors mean smaller advances.

Less Diversity of Books. Different publishing houses choose to publish different projects. With fewer voices in traditional publishing, the range of published books will become more homogenous. Big Five publishers are more likely to focus on acquiring fewer books that are sure to sell, offering higher advances to secure those deals rather than taking many chances on “riskier” deals by debut authors. This trend has not gone unnoticed. An op-ed in the Los Angeles Times noted this merger comes at a moment where diversity in America is a focus, and an op-ed in The Atlantic raised concerns about preserving democracy through the diversity of thought. The Association of American Literary Agents echoed this in their statement by arguing the deal will “diminish the diversity of viewpoints and the vibrancy so essential to the future of books.” If a lack of diversity ensues, even more authors will be excluded from traditional publishing avenues.


What does this ultimately mean for authors?
It will likely become more difficult for authors to secure a traditional publishing deal in an already-competitive market. Professional writer and publishing industry commentator Josh Bernoff argues that “basically, as an author, you have to take more responsibility than ever before for your own books.” If the merger goes through, pursuing traditional publication through a Big Five publisher may be a less attractive option for authors. Authors may turn to alternative publishing options such as:

Independent Presses. Indie presses may give more time and attention to each author even if they can’t promise a big advance.

Self-Publishing. Promising total creative control, self-publishing is an option for the author who is willing to produce the book themselves in totality in order to retain full creative freedom.

Hybrid Publishing. Hybrid publishing bridges the gap between traditional and self-publishing, and appeals to authors who want the guidance of publishing experts yet have the final say on their book.


Whether or not the Bertelsmann acquisition of Simon & Schuster will go through remains to be seen. The merger of two large traditional publishers has drawn attention and speculation as to what it means for the future of publishing. What’s certain, though, is that the future of alternative publishing options has never looked brighter for authors of all genres.




As the CEO at
Amplify Publishing and Mascot Books, Naren Aryal is a recognized publishing industry expert. Naren advises authors, thought leaders, and various organizations on the opportunities and challenges that exist in the evolving publishing world. He’s guided the company’s growth from a single children’s book in 2003 to becoming one of the fastest growing and most respected hybrid publishing companies in the world. Today, Mascot Books publishes hundreds of books a year across all genres, and Amplify Publishing is a leading nonfiction imprint specializing in “big ideas” from some of the most reputable names in business and politics.

Naren frequently speaks at publishing and business events about the importance of developing compelling content and a robust author platform. He is also the author of How to Sell a Crapload of Books: 10 Secrets of a Killer Author Marketing Platform.

Prior to entering the world of books, Naren worked as a lawyer, advising technology companies in the Washington, D.C. area. He holds a B.S. in Finance from Virginia Tech and Juris Doctor from University of Denver.

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Case Study: Uncovering the Secrets to Becoming a Financial Badass

How one successful wealth advisor made it his mission to increase millennials’ financial literacy.

 
George “G$” Kroustalis thought it was another typical day hosting a 401(k) enrollment seminar. Though a financial advisor for pre-retirement clients, Kroustalis hosts these events to reach young adults just starting their professional lives and to encourage them to begin saving money. That day, October 10, a former attendee came up to Kroustalis and told him that, though he was initially doubtful, he had followed Kroustalis’s advice over the past twelve years and built his wealth beyond his wildest expectations. That moment turned Kroustalis’s passion for spreading financial literacy into a crusade, which drove him to write Secrets to Becoming a Financial Badass.


An essential book young people need to read
Secrets to Becoming a Financial Badass was hailed as the “personal finance book that every millennial should read” by the host of MSNBC’s Your Business, JJ Ramberg, because of its sound financial advice and fresh writing style. Using his “Save, Spend, and Invest” model, Kroustalis uses his experience as a pre-retirement financial advisor to teach young people how to balance their budgets and become financially successful in the future. He keeps it simple with just the basics of what young adults need to know now so they make smart decisions with their money later. It’s Kroustalis’s personal mission to increase financial literacy in young adults, and this book is tailored for them with jokes and pop culture examples to keep it relatable.


Our goals?
1. Match Kroustalis’s vision to make the book relatable to young people by using their language and making references only they understand
2. Launch the book with a bang on national media channels
3. Supplement national efforts with local events to excite Kroustalis’s personal network


Kroustalis knew what kind of book he wanted to write. It needed to be informative yet humorous, to keep young people engaged in the financial content. The tone had to be light and invoke current pop culture references like Call of Duty, Instagram, and Lana Del Rey to explain complex financial strategies. All in all, it took a year to write the book. Kroustalis was involved every step of the way—from writing to fact-checking to the black-and-white interior illustrations—in order to ensure the book was true to his vision.

Once the book’s interior was set, the cover designed, and the book printed, Kroustalis took Secrets to Becoming a Financial Badass to the New York Stock Exchange for its debut. He appeared on Cheddar, the business news network, to answer pressing financial questions millennials face and describe how the book tackles these difficult decisions.

Kroustalis also appeared on SiriusXM’s “The Power Hour” with Godfrey the Comedian, a show that covers politics, pop culture, and social issues. He discussed the power of compound interest with the famous “Would you rather have a million dollars or a penny doubled every day for a month?” example, a question that highlights the importance of saving money early in life.

Kroustalis also launched the book at J. Sam’s, a restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina, a launch so successful it was standing room only.


A charitable element

Secrets to Becoming a Financial Badass is one part of Kroustalis’s mission to spread financial literacy. Inspired by the date his former seminar attendee thanked him for his advice, Kroustalis created Project 10.10, a 501(c)3 nonprofit committed to educating young people on basic personal finance at the community level.


Young people have time on their side financially. Kroustalis’s experience as a financial advisor working with pre-retirement clients means he knows the importance of a 401(k), and he wants young people to know it, too. In Secrets to Becoming a Financial Badass, he takes three short chapters to teach millennials how to keep their budget sheet balanced and he succeeds at—above all—being entertaining.

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Moving Forward with a Foreword: How to Get the Ultimate Endorsement

P.V. Kannan’s book The Age of Intent: Using Artificial Intelligence to Deliver a Superior Customer Experience had all the elements necessary to make an impact. P.V. is a respected technologist and entrepreneur with expertise in artificial intelligence (AI), the cutting-edge technology widely predicted to transform the business world. P.V.’s book had great case studies, great research, and a great design. What else could the book possibly need to take it over the top? A killer foreword. A valuable foreword can enhance an author’s credibility and a book’s marketability.

That’s when the brainstorming started. P.V. curated a wish list of names: CEOs, technologists, bestselling authors, and Thomas L. Friedman, the influential columnist from the New York Times. Friedman is a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and internationally renowned for his reporting on the Middle East, foreign affairs, globalization, and the environment. P.V. crossed paths with Friedman in 2004 while Friedman was shooting a documentary on outsourcing for the New York Times and Discovery and has been featured in his books The World Is Flat and That Used to Be Us.


The ask:

P.V. waited until his book had a final cover design and was nearly finished with researching and editing. Then he gave Friedman a copy of the manuscript and asked whether he would consider contributing a foreword if he was impressed.

Friedman has all the qualities of a great foreword writer. He has 1) name recognition, 2) a well-respected and established platform, and 3) a willingness to promote the book. Not only did Friedman deliver an engaging foreword that provided a thorough overview of the current boom in AI technology and P.V.’s expertise on the subject matter, but he also wrote a column about The Age of Intent’s subject matter, “A.I. Still Needs H.I. (Human Intelligence) for Now,” using his own and NYT’s channels to get word out about the book. The book also received attention in other outlets. For example, P.V. Kannan and his coauthor, Josh Bernoff, later wrote two articles on AI for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan Management Review titled “The Future of Customer Service Is AI-Human Collaboration” and “Four Challenges to Overcome for AI-Driven Customer Experience.”


How do I get a foreword?

There are two types of people you can solicit for forewords: people you know, and people you don’t.

People you know are the easiest people to ask for a foreword. They are already in your network, and you have the relationship to reach out and ask for their contribution. They may not even ask to see the manuscript or table of contents.

The network of people you know may not be direct contacts. You can tap into the connections of your publisher, book publicist, or ghostwriter to see who they could introduce you to. Here at Amplify, Andrew Yang, the champion of universal basic income, provided a testimonial for Our Future: The Basic Income Plan for Peace, Justice, Liberty, Democracy, and Personal Dignity by Steven Shafarman. The CEO of Zoom, Eric Yuan, is writing a foreword for Paul Epstein’s forthcoming The Power of Playing Defense. And as a result of introducing them, Amplify author Tracy Maylett provided a foreword for another Amplify title in the works, The Virtual Events Playbook by Lee Deaner, Nick Zerby, and Stanley Saint-Louis.

People you don’t know are more difficult to secure, but not impossible. Usually, these people have expertise in the subject matter in your book and would garner attention. Research their contact information early, but plan to reach out later in the process if you don’t know them. In order to make a good impression, you will need to provide the potential foreword writer with the book’s cover image and two sample chapters at minimum. If possible, it’s best to send the manuscript in full along with a list of other notable people affiliated with the book, whether they are providing a testimonial for the back cover or are quoted in the text itself. Foreword contributors often welcome a draft or editorial ideas in advance, too, but only offer a draft if they are too busy to write it themselves.

The less connection you have, the more finalized you want the book to be so you have great material to share. And be prepared to wait for their response. When you don’t have an immediate connection to the person, it’ll take follow-up and patience to get them on board, but they can be worth the wait.

Start your search for people you don’t know by creating a wish list of people you would like to write the foreword. It’s good to aim high, but keep it reasonable. Do you know how many times authors have asked to secure Oprah, Ellen, or Elon Musk?

One question people often ask is if they should pay their foreword writer. The answer? No. Never. The writer is already getting something out of it: increased visibility.


Does my book need a foreword?

Authors ask us if they should have a foreword for their book all the time, and the answer is: it depends. Not every book requires one. Authors who are thought leaders, entrepreneurs, or subject matter experts benefit most from forewords. From the right source, the foreword will bolster the book’s credibility and can help with promotion and sales.

So, who is that right person? Think back to Thomas L. Friedman and The Age of Intent. The ideal foreword writer will have:

-Name recognition or be respected in their field
-A marketing platform greater than yours
-A willingness to use their platform to benefit your book

It’s rare to have all three of these checked like Friedman. If the potential foreword writer has one or two of these qualities, it’s probably still a good idea to move forward.

A well-written foreword should provide you with:

-An introduction to you and your book
-An anecdote or an application of what your book discusses
-A testimonial as to why readers should read your book
-Credibility in your subject area by association with the writer

To get a valuable foreword like The Age of Intent did, work your network of personal and professional relationships to find the right person who adds value to your book. Partnering with an advantageous foreword writer spreads your book far and wide and connects you with your target audience better. A foreword is one piece of the puzzle in launching your book’s success.




As the CEO at
Amplify Publishing and Mascot Books, Naren Aryal is a recognized publishing industry expert. Naren advises authors, thought leaders, and various organizations on the opportunities and challenges that exist in the evolving publishing world. He’s guided the company’s growth from a single children’s book in 2003 to becoming one of the fastest growing and most respected hybrid publishing companies in the world. Today, Mascot Books publishes hundreds of books a year across all genres, and Amplify Publishing is a leading nonfiction imprint specializing in “big ideas” from some of the most reputable names in business and politics.

Naren frequently speaks at publishing and business events about the importance of developing compelling content and a robust author platform. He is also the author of How to Sell a Crapload of Books: 10 Secrets of a Killer Author Marketing Platform.

Prior to entering the world of books, Naren worked as a lawyer, advising technology companies in the Washington, D.C. area. He holds a B.S. in Finance from Virginia Tech and Juris Doctor from University of Denver.

 

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The Rapidly Changing Marketplace for Political Books

Bob Woodward, Donald Trump Jr., and RealClearPolitics make headlines in the 2020 Election Book Season

by Naren Aryal

As the November election approaches, we are in the heart of the political book season. And just like the election itself, the battle for readership is unlike anything we’ve witnessed before. There are a slew of titles from the large publishing houses that cycle in and out of the news, with the most recent entry being Rage by Bob Woodward.

Here’s what’s new and notable in the political book arena:

From the “Big Five” traditional publishing houses:
Rage by Bob Woodward revealed that President Donald Trump concealed the threat of the coronavirus from the American people, Live Free or Die by Sean Hannity argued against leftwing radicalism, and The Room Where It Happened by John Bolton accused Trump of colluding with Chinese officials to secure re-election. Each of them managed to secure media attention surrounding their publication date in an attempt to claim readers’ attention.

A recent self-published title:
Donald Trump Jr.’s new book Liberal Privilege: Joe Biden and The Democrats’ Defense of The Indefensible is markedly different from its contemporaries. Trump Jr. self-published Liberal Privilege on Tuesday, September 1 and, at the time of writing, was ranked #12 on Amazon and #30 in the Kindle Store. It claimed the #1 spot in the following Politics and Government categories: “Ideologies & Doctrines,” “Political Conservatism & Liberalism,” and “Nationalism.”

From the latest entrant into publishing, hybrid publishing:
RealClear Publishing, a new imprint of Amplify Publishing in partnership with RealClearPolitics and Gotham Ghostwriters, also has several political titles in the mix. Its hybrid model allows for a variety of authors to join the national political conversation while retaining creative control and an advantageous royalties split. Contract to Unite America: Ten Reforms to Reclaim Our Republic by Neal Simon prescribes ways to bring America back from the frenzy of political partisanship. From longtime advocate of basic income, Steve Shafarman, comes Our Future: The Basic Income Plan for Peace, Justice, Liberty, Democracy, and Personal Dignity, a book that discusses a potential plan for Universal Basic Income (UBI), a prominent policy that has taken center stage in the 2020 election. Andrew Yang, former Democratic presidential candidate and proponent of UBI, writes the foreword. And Bob Worsley, former Arizona state senator, in The Horseshoe Virus: How the Anti-Immigration Movement Spread from Left-Wing to Right-Wing America traces the origins of anti-immigration sentiment in the United States and urges for a return from extremism.

The Rise of Alternative Publishing

After hitting a home run with his first book, why would Trump Jr., or other respected authors, choose a non-traditional pathway to publishing this time around? Some reasons include:

  • Speed to market. With the November presidential election looming, the time is ripe for political books. Trump Jr. turned his book around from draft to printed book in a matter of months, whereas traditional publishing usually takes at least a year.
  • Creative control. Self-publishing means Trump Jr. can produce his book the way he wants it, without editorial or design interference. He’s beholden only to himself, and that means he can write anything (including typos on his book cover) and has total creative liberty.
  • Potentially greater financial upside. Trump Jr. reportedly turned down the advance Hachette offered for Liberal Privilege. However, if he’s able to leverage his audience, he’ll do just fine with this second book and will receive a much high royalty percentage than he would have otherwise.

Access to readers is key for self-publishing and hybrid publishing success and has long been the biggest obstacle to self-publishing in the past. Author platforms don’t get bigger than Trump Jr.’s 5.5 million Twitter followers (not to mention his father’s 85.7 million). Trump Jr. has access to his readers and the counter-establishment mindset to reach them. RealClear Publishing’s platform taps into RealClearPolitics’s political news audience to make waves with its titles.

Of course, the appeal of traditional publishing has been high editorial quality, access to bookstores, and robust marketing support. But ever since Amazon came onto the scene in the early 2000s and rocked the publishing world, no longer is the only legitimate way to get an author’s book read by going traditional (and dealing with literary agents, acquisition editors, and bookstore buyers). Now anyone can upload a PDF to their CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing services and create a sellable book.

The rules are different now, and Trump Jr. is just the latest in a long string of authors finding publishing success by pursuing alternative routes.

Here are a few others:

But it’s important to draw a clear distinction between Trump Jr.’s approach to self-publishing versus the average self-published author. Trump Jr. likely retained experts to help him throughout the editorial, design, and printing steps of the publishing process, essentially opting into the hybrid publishing model. These are some critical book production tasks many self-published authors either neglect or don’t have the resources to do well.

The hybrid publishing model offers high editorial quality, premium book packaging, and widespread marketing and distribution, while keeping the advantages offered by self-publishing, such as copyright ownership. RealClear Publishing follows the hybrid model to give authors the combination of creative control and publishing industry knowledge. Typically, the hybrid model works best with authors who (1) are authorities in their field but want the advice of book experts, (2) ready to leverage their own emerging or established platforms for success, and (3) ready to be part of a collaborative experience.

To break away from the pack, authors used to have to chase traditional publishers for a book deal. Now, with alternate respected publishing pathways, there are new ways to remain prominent in the 2020 election discussion.


As the CEO at Amplify Publishing and Mascot Books, Naren Aryal is a recognized publishing industry expert. Naren advises authors, thought leaders, and various organizations on the opportunities and challenges that exist in the evolving publishing world. He’s guided the company’s growth from a single children’s book in 2003 to becoming one of the fastest growing and most respected hybrid publishing companies in the world. Today, Mascot Books publishes hundreds of books a year across all genres, and Amplify Publishing is a leading nonfiction imprint specializing in “big ideas” from some of the most reputable names in business and politics.

Naren frequently speaks at publishing and business events about the importance of developing compelling content and a robust author platform. He is also the author of How to Sell a Crapload of Books: 10 Secrets of a Killer Author Marketing Platform.

Prior to entering the world of books, Naren worked as a lawyer, advising technology companies in the Washington, D.C. area. He holds a B.S. in Finance from Virginia Tech and Juris Doctor from University of Denver.

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The Art and Science of Subtitles

If titles are hard to write, subtitles can be even harder. They are the meat of the title by telling the reader exactly what your book is about. While titles are short and creative, subtitles are longer and more literal. For example, the Amplify book The Age of Intent by P.V. Kannan has a title that is bold, attractive, and attention-grabbing. But what is the book actually about? You don’t know until its subtitle: Using Artificial Intelligence to Deliver a Superior Customer Experience. Now it becomes clear it’s a book about artificial intelligence and companies’ use of AI.

Subtitles establish a contact between the author and the reader. As an author, you’re promising a reader (or potential reader) that if they invest in you, they will increase their knowledge about a given subject matter, and by doing so, they will be better informed and will be able to achieve takeaways that will interest or benefit them. The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich, for example, offers three things to the reader: a better work schedule, freedom of movement, and wealth. Subtitles are nothing short of a promise, so crafting a good subtitle is crucial for your book’s success.


Tips for a Good Subtitle

  1. Speak directly to your target market
  2. Differentiate your book by revealing its niche or specialty in the book marketplace. Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! by Robert Kiyosaki uses its subtitle to pinpoint its reader. Someone who is poor or middle class and wants to learn about the rich people’s financial philosophy is going to pick up his book. Remember, in order to speak to your target market, you have to have a clear understanding of who that is.

  1. Keep Google and Amazon in mind 
Thinking of the keywords and web searches readers will use to find your book and including those in your subtitle will maximize discoverability (a process called Search Engine Optimization, or SEO). Comparison titles can also be instructive in how to target your audience. Keep Amazon genres and subgenres in mind, too. For instance, Game Changer: The Story of Pictionary and How I Turned a Simple Idea into the Bestselling Board Game in the World
  1. by Rob Angel fits into the Amazon subgenres “Board Games,” “Entrepreneurship,” and “Actor & Entertainer Biographies.” His subtitle addresses each of those categories to increase hits.

  1. Escalate in value
    If your subtitle is going to say something like “How to Turn Unreasonable Expectations Into Lasting Relationships” (as does the subtitle for Marketing to the Entitled Consumer by Nick Worth and Dave Frankland), make sure it escalates in value. You want to start with something less valuable that the reader wants to lose—“unreasonable expectations”—and end with gaining something attractive—“lasting relationships”. Ensure you’re tapping into the reader’s desire to achieve something great.

    Pay attention to rhythm
    A no-brainer, but critical. Subtitles should complement their titles. The famous title Freakonomics slides right into A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. Read your title and subtitle out loud together. Does it roll off the tongue? It should—if not, get back to the drawing board.

    Whatever you choose for your subtitle, remember a good subtitle markets your book and enters into a contract with the reader. Craft them thoughtfully and they can yield great returns.




    As the CEO at
    Amplify Publishing and Mascot Books, Naren Aryal is a recognized publishing industry expert. Naren advises authors, thought leaders, and various organizations on the opportunities and challenges that exist in the evolving publishing world. He’s guided the company’s growth from a single children’s book in 2003 to becoming one of the fastest growing and most respected hybrid publishing companies in the world. Today, Mascot Books publishes hundreds of books a year across all genres, and Amplify Publishing is a leading nonfiction imprint specializing in “big ideas” from some of the most reputable names in business and politics. 


    Naren frequently speaks at publishing and business events about the importance of developing compelling content and a robust author platform. He is also the author of
    How to Sell a Crapload of Books: 10 Secrets of a Killer Author Marketing Platform.

    Prior to entering the world of books, Naren worked as a lawyer, advising technology companies in the Washington, D.C. area. He holds a B.S. in Finance from Virginia Tech and Juris Doctor from University of Denver.

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    Promotion in a Pandemic?

    The comparisons to life in the aftermath of September 11 to the current (and ever-evolving) challenges we face with the coronavirus COVID-19 are unavoidable. One of the post-9/11 moments etched in millions of American’s minds is the episode of Saturday Night Live that aired on September 29, 2001.

    Surrounded by Ground Zero first responders, then-Mayor Rudy Guiliani opened the show, with Paul Simon performing “The Boxer.” At the end of this unprecedented cold open, show-runner Lorne Michaels asked Guiliani a simple question: “Can we be funny?” 

    Guiliani’s reply: “Why start now?”

    In times of extreme uncertainty, it’s only natural to ask yourself if now is the right time to resume, especially when it comes to book promotion. The key is authenticity. Does your expertise lend itself to the situation at hand? Could it provide solutions? Or a path to much-needed distraction? 

    Last week, we gave an inside look into how Melissa Agnes, crisis management expert and author of Crisis Readyturned on a dime to put her expertise to work. Our other Amplify authors are on the same path, leveraging their thought leadership and further rooting their platform and positioning.

    BigSpeak Speakers Bureau compiled a list of top webinar and keynote speakers featuring Invisible Solutions author Stephen Shapiro. “Provocative innovation evangelist Stephen Shapiro knows all about creating high-performing teams that can think outside the box and tackle challenges that seem impossible. For organizations that fear falling behind in rapidly shifting situations, Stephen is an obvious choice. He’s available for pre-recorded keynotes, live keynotes and webinars.” As small businesses to global corporations shift to remote work, Stephen’s approach was made for this. 

    NBA Life Optimization Coach David Nurse, who’s debut book Pivot & Go will be out this summer, has worked with over 100 NBA players with personal and professional development on and off the court. Recognizing the sudden halt in all sports, from the pro’s on down, David’s offering one-on-one Skype/FaceTime coaching sessions for high school and youth sports coaches.

    And not only was P.V. Kannan, author of The Age of Intent, featured in an MIT Sloan Management Review webinar on the future of artificial intelligence, his presentation is now available on demand for free, allowing users access to the content anytime. A working parent now juggling remote work and childcare, for example, has the flexibility to engage with P.V.’s expertise on their time, increasing eyeballs and, likely, book sales.

    Our answer? Start now.

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    Traditional, Hybrid, and Self-Publishing: Pros, Cons, and Choosing Your Path

    By Naren Aryal

    Last week, I presented to a group of authors at the National Writers Union in New York City and had a great conversation with a group of motivated writers about the ever-changing market and the various publishing paths available to content creators. I’ve given this presentation many times and love giving it, so I thought it would be appropriate to share parts of my presentation here on the Amplify blog.

    At a high-level, there are three paths to publishing: traditional publishing, self-publishing, and where we reside at Amplify—hybrid publishing. This post provides a brief overview of each path, including the pros and cons of each approach.

    Traditional Publishing

    Up until the early 2000s, traditional publishing was virtually the only way to get your book into the market. This approach requires securing a literary agent who shops your manuscript to large publishing houses, typically in New York. If your manuscript is sold to a large publishing house, congratulations—you’ve beaten the odds!

    Agents and large houses generally look for authors offering (a) compelling content, (b) massive author marketing platforms, and (c) a track record of selling books. I’ve met plenty of authors that have amazing content, but just don’t have the requisite platform or sales track record to be a good candidate for a traditional deal.

    Traditionally published books typically have high production quality (editorial, cover and interior design, premium book printing) and have access to large distribution channels. For authors, the upside of this model is the publisher bears all the up-front production costs—the publishing house assumes the financial risk. Some (not all) authors also collect advances against future royalties.

    Potential downsides that come with traditional publishing include loss of creative control and intellectual property rights (including ancillary rights, like merchandising, film, etc.), an agonizingly long time to market (18-24 months on average), and smaller royalty percentages on sales (which may be offset by an advance, meaning you don’t collect any royalties until the house recoups its investment in your content).

    Regarding marketing, there seems to be a misconception that all traditionally published authors enjoy overwhelming levels of marketing support. This is true if you’re an A lister that’s authored a book with runaway bestseller potential. For rank and file authors, however, meaningful marketing support only kicks in if sales meet or exceed projections. Authors have to be fully-engaged in book-related marketing efforts—and this is true regardless of the pathway to publishing.

    I have simple advice for authors considering this route: if you get a solid traditional publishing deal with a reasonable advance (and this definition differs from project-to-project and author-to-author)—take it!


    Self-Publishing

    Many of the elements that make self-publishing attractive to some are exactly what makes other authors refuse to consider it. First, the barrier to entry is low (or non-existent, depending on the platform). You can become a published author today by simply uploading your content onto to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform—you and everyone else that fancies themselves an author—placing you among the masses clambering to stand out and get their content noticed.

    On the flip side, you’ll have complete editorial control and will have final say concerning your book’s physical specifications, including its cover and interior design—a great thing if you know what you’re doing, but something that can easily become overwhelming. If you have no experience producing a book, you could end up with a book that’s riddled with typos and has a cover that “looks self-published,” a criticism you hear often in the publishing industry. If you do go the self-publishing route, and you’re intending your book to have an audience beyond your friends and family, invest in hiring an experienced editor and designer—it will be money well spent.

    Distribution can be a challenge for self-published books, and even more so for self-published print-on-demand titles. Retailers work almost exclusively with their preferred distributors, such as Ingram, Baker & Taylor, and a few others that service specific account types—grocery stores, warehouse clubs, airport vendors, big box retailers, museum gift shops, hospitals, museums, gift stores, etc. Procuring inventory from these channels allows them to get inventory per industry terms, namely standard wholesale discounts, full returnability rights, lengthy payment periods, shipping and freight agreements, chargebacks to publishers, and any number of other terms, most of which are highly favorable for distributors and retailers, but not so much for authors and publishers. Most retailers won’t even consider POD and self-published titles for their shelves.

    Self-publishing also places all the responsibility for the marketing and promotion of the book squarely on the author. While all authors should engage in marketing their book, self-published authors have a heavier burden. There are plenty of resources online, but it can be difficult to know what’s worth the investment, making increasing awareness of your book a challenge.


    Hybrid Publishing

    So what is hybrid publishing? Up until February 2018, there really wasn’t a universal answer. That’s when the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) attempted to clear-up lingering confusion by issuing their Hybrid Publisher Criteria, which is definitely worth a read.

    The high-level takeaway is that a true hybrid publisher maintains the highest industry and ethical standards and produces books that are on par with traditional houses. Hybrid publishers have a vetting process for content, provide access to meaningful distribution channels, and offer book marketing services. In other words, there’s a commitment to creating high-quality books and emphasis on helping get those books into readers’ hands through distribution and marketing. Other benefits include speed-to-market (the average timeline is about half that of traditional—sometimes even less), creative control, and ownership of all intellectual property rights.

    Unlike traditional publishing, there are production-related costs, and therefore the financial risk falls largely on the author.  To make up for these up-front expenses, the author often receives a much higher royalty rate per sale than traditionally published authors. At Amplify, we pay our authors 85% of sales, and provide distribution and marketing services designed to maximize visibility and sales potential.


    Every writer’s publishing goals are unique and there are benefits and disadvantages to each pathway to publication. I encourage you to investigate each opportunity available to you before deciding which path to choose. Do your research. Ask questions. Compare your options and then confidently pursue the publishing path that’s right for you.


    Naren Aryal is the co-founder and publisher of Mascot Books and Amplify Publishing. After starting his career as a Washington lawyer, Naren launched Mascot Books in 2003 with the publication of his first book. As an author himself (How to Sell a Crapload of Books: 10 Secrets of a Killer Author Marketing Platform), Naren appreciates the opportunities and challenges facing storytellers. As a publisher, he’s well-versed in the market factors that determine a project’s ultimate level of success. Naren’s more than fifteen years of publishing experience have made him an expert in the editorial, production, distribution, and marketing arenas. He’s passionate about staying up-to-date on industry technology and trends and is a respected commentator on anything publishing-related.

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    From the Publisher

    By Naren Aryal

    Welcome to Amplify.  

    At Amplify, we publish top-quality nonfiction titles. Specifically, we’re all about business books, political and policy-related works, and current affairs issues that are starting conversations. That’s it. Nothing else.

    We launched our first book in October 2018, but we’re not new to the world of publishing. Amplify is the first imprint of a company I co-founded fifteen years ago, Mascot Books. Mascot is a multi-genre house, publishing everything from children’s titles, to cookbooks, to fantasy/science fiction novels, to memoirs—and everything in between. But even book people have favorite genres, and, as CEO, I wanted to establish a new imprint focusing on the genres I enjoy most and where we’ve had growing success. In the last five years, we’ve had the opportunity to work with some really impressive authors in the nonfiction space: CEOs, subject matter experts, innovative thought leaders. A new imprint would give these authors and their big ideas a unique space in the publishing landscape and set their work apart. Amplify was born.

    Amplify’s first release was Brainwashed: The Bad Science Behind CTE and the Plot to Destroy Football, a controversial look at CTE research and the way it’s represented in the media, by former NFL star and ESPN commentator Merril Hoge. In several ways, it embodies the core of what we look for in an Amplify title, beyond being well-written and thoroughly researched. Some agree with the stance Brainwashed takes, some disagree, but one thing is clear: it’s gotten people—journalists, players, and readers—talking. Brainwashed started a new thread in one of sports’ longest and loudest conversations. That’s what good books do.

    In 2019, we’re continuing the momentum with The Age of Intent: Using Artificial Intelligence to Deliver a Superior Customer Experience by P.V. Kannan, the cofounder and chief executive officer of Silicon Valley-based [24]7.ai, a leader in AI-driven customer experience software and services. Slated for release on May 28, 2019, the book shares P.V.’s take on how AI is helping the world’s leading businesses attract and retain customers through personalized, predictive, and effortless customer experience by redefining the way companies interact with consumers.

    At Amplify, we believe content is king. Here, you can expect to find books from leading figures in business like Tae Hea Nahm and Bob Tinker; subject matter experts like Melissa Agnes (Crisis Ready); and budding thought leaders like Dave Frankland and Nick Worth (Marketing to the Entitled Consumer). With the 2020 general elections a little over a year away, we’ll rise to meet the slew of political titles hitting the market with some of our own from both sides of the aisle. We’re looking forward to new voices, growing partnerships, and great books in 2019. I’m glad you’re here and hope you’ll come along for the ride.

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    an imprint of Mascot Books  |  
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