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How to Maximize Sales at Amazon

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We’ve learned a lot at Amazon about what makes a given book sell best on our site, and we want to pass that knowledge along–both because we like happy customers and because more sales are better for everyone.


Here’s a quick rundown of the steps to online success:


In an online bookstore, publishers must make sure a customer can search for a book, read and see what it’s about, and/or be able to browse a specific area in order to find it. If all legs of the stool aren’t present, sales aren’t being maximized.


Obviously, subject classification is all-important for searching. If a book is available through Amazon’s Advantage program, we get an actual copy that lets us read through it and assign a variety of subjects to it “by hand.” (The Advantage program, which is free, enables publishers and authors of all sizes to set up a consignment relationship with Amazon. A stock of Advantage program books is kept in our warehouse so availability of the titles is “ships in 24 hours”; this increases the likelihood of sales. Additionally, Advantage members have access to daily sales and inventory reports.) Books that aren’t in the Advantage program are classified in data feeds from wholesalers and others.


Because online retailers can and do classify each book in multiple categories (think Women’s Fiction/Literature/Romance/Italy/WWII), each book is more accessible than it can be in brick-and-mortar stores. Multiple category classification is especially useful for books with multiple niche audiences.


Giving the customer details about your book is also essential. The single best thing a publisher can do to spur online sales is supply an image of the cover, but book descriptions, author information, table of contents, interior images, and first chapters are also important pieces of content that allow a potential customer to make a decision about whether or not a title is right for them. When customers walk into a brick-and-mortar retailer, they can select a title from a shelf, review the back cover, thumb through the index or table of contents, and read a sample–all before deciding to buy a book. The challenge for publishers and authors at online retailers is to deliver this same kind of experience to online shoppers. Titles with rich content sell much better than those without it at e-tailers.


At Amazon, the better you do, the better you do, so making the most of subject classification opportunities and providing rich content should be accompanied by off-site marketing. Generating local media coverage of a title, third-party Web sites, and e-mail campaigns are just a few ways publishers drive sales inexpensively. By concentrating an increase in a title’s sales during a short period of time through merchandising and/or marketing, publishers and authors can push their titles into the current of Amazon’s automated “click stream”–a push that pays off in continuing, escalating sales.


This is so because titles in the click stream surface most frequently when readers browse, and browsing to discover a book is as important online as it is offline. We surface titles in three main ways:

• Through “manual” placement

• Through automated customization tools like Amazon’s personalization

• Through automated placement by sales rank.


Titles surface on category pages through manual placement either because they’re in our small press program, which resembles co-op programs in conventional bookstores, or because Amazon editors decide to feature them, which they’re most likely to do if you send a good strong press package along with a copy of your book to: Amazon.com, PO Box 81226, Attention: [Relevant Category] Editor, Seattle, WA 98108-1226.


Our personalization system delivers unique pages with product suggestions to every single customer, based on what the customer is currently browsing, what the customer bought in the past, what customers who have bought similar titles have also purchased, and what the customer says he or she is interested in seeing. Titles surface through personalization because they’re selling at certain levels, but–please note–only if they have a cover and content.


Finally, Amazon and other online retailers surface titles according to their sales rank. At Amazon, lists that are generated automatically display titles with the highest sales ranks not only on the prominent books home page (Amazon Top 100) and on the Amazon Gateway (Amazon Movers & Shakers) but also frequently at the category, sub-category, and lower pages through automated bestseller lists.


Because books that make it into the click stream surface in Amazon’s personalization buckets, on bestseller lists, in similarities, and higher in search more frequently than titles with less momentum, they sell more copies.


Laura Porco is Manager of Publisher Marketing and Diane Zoi is Director of

Vendor Management at Amazon.com. Zoi also runs the Advantage Program.


For more information on aspects of boosting online sales:

Visit www.amazon.com/advantage to get details on the Advantage Program.

E-mail coop@amazon.com with questions about Small Press Co-Op Advertising.

See www.amazon.com/publishers for a Publisher Guide with cover and content submission details.

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