As the president of an
on-demand publishing company, I have seen authors earn hundreds, thousands, and
tens of thousands of dollars a month in book royalties purely from online
sales. In many cases, most of those online sales came from Amazon.
Finding success in the Amazon.com
jungle comes down to exposure. You need to expose your book to as many eyeballs
as possible, which means that as many people as possible should see the
detailed product description page for your book.
The more visits to your
description page, the better your book is going to perform. Simply put, the
Amazon algorithm favors the most popular items, so if two different products
match a user’s criteria, the more popular one will show up first.
The merchandising machine under
Amazon’s hood is designed to deliver the most customized experience possible to
each user. Its ultimate goal is to present users with other products they will
purchase. But that’s good, because it means Amazon will do the hardest part of
selling for you—prequalifying buyers according to their preferences. These
preferences are determined in terms of a complex history of every product
bought or looked at, every review written, and every link clicked. Because each
user’s shopping preferences are stored in its memory, Amazon can make sure that
the people who see your book are likely to be interested in it.
Publishers can take advantage of
Amazon’s abilities in several ways. Some of them are free, and three of them
are also useful at BarnesandNoble.com, as noted below.
Since few things on Amazon are
more important than ensuring that your product detail page is as comprehensive
as possible, provide details about every element of your book (they don’t call
it a “detail page” for nothing). Even if the page already includes Editorial
Reviews and a Product Description, take the time to add material. Amazon
provides a detailed form you should fill out to take full control of all the
information on your product page; visit <span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>www.amazon.com/publishers and click on
Add Descriptive Content and then on Book Content Update Form. To modify or
enhance content on Barnes & Noble, send an email (always include the ISBN)
Time is money. One of the easiest
ways to increase exposure for your book is to pay Amazon to pair it with a
related title that has a very high sales ranking. They call this the BXGY (Buy
X, Get Y) promotion. It costs $500 to $1,000 per month; information is
available at www.amazon.com/coop.
When you join the Amazon
Associates program, you can use its “affiliate links” to link your site to your
product detail page at Amazon. You should also link to similar products,
including similar books. Join the associates program at <span
B&N has a comparable Affiliates program, found at <span
Amazon’s Search Inside program
involves digitizing your entire book for the Amazon database. Whatever your feeling
about the rights issues this raises, consider its benefits for you. The more
data the Amazon Merchandising System has about your book, the more likely it is
to expose your book to a user who has exhibited interest in the book’s subject
matter in the past. For example, full digitization of your book increases the
likelihood that it will appear in Amazon searches. To learn about Search
Inside, visit www.amazon.com/searchinside.
The Amazon Marketplace allows
other individuals or companies to sell your book from your product detail page.
They can sell new or used copies and set prices accordingly. Do not compete
with other Marketplace listings. Instead, complement them with your own. For
example, enter a description of your book that no one else can claim: “Direct
from the author,” or “Signed copy.”
Your book should have as many
reviews as possible. The Amazon algorithm examines the number of reviews and
the reviews’ ratings when determining exposure levels. Encourage everyone you know
to write a five-star review, and then find ways to motivate people you don’t
know to do that too. Also encourage those same people to indicate that all the
other reviews posted for your book are “helpful.” This is one of the most
overlooked and easiest methods of increasing your book sales on Amazon (and at
B&N.com). Reviews can be posted directly from the product detail page. It
is even easier to compose your own reviews than it is to solicit reviews from
others. Write as many reviews as you possibly can of every book you have ever
read but particularly of books that are similar to yours. Mention your own book
in each review you write.
For 55 percent of the cover price,
Amazon lets you list your book through its Advantage Program and handles
fulfillment. Alternatively, you can create an on-demand edition of your book by
working with a company like mine that will handle listing, printing,
fulfillment, and shipping for your book for as little as 20 percent. If you do
decide to look for an on-demand publishing firm, find one that lets you set
your own trade discount and retail price. It’s important to have control over
the retail price so you can ensure the on-demand edition is priced the same as
the offset edition (if possible).
As part of its efforts to foster a
community between authors and readers, Amazon’s Author Connect feature allows
each author to create a personal profile. These biographies can be tailored to
encourage book sales. Authors can also post bibliographies of all the books
they have ever written as well as personal messages that automatically
proliferate to all their applicable product detail pages. If one of an author’s
books is not selling well on Amazon but another is, Author Connect can help.
Use its Author Postings feature on the product description page for the title
that is performing better to draw attention to the title that isn’t moving.
Sign up at www.amazon.com/connect.
After you create an author
profile, Amazon gives you an easy way to manage one of the greatest services it
offers—Listmania. You will find a link to Listmania Lists at the bottom of the
Author Profile page under a heading that says More to Explore. Basically,
Listmania is a customizable top-25 list that you create and manage yourself.
The trick to Listmania is to offer valuable lists so that other people read
them. The more popular your list is, the more exposure the products within your
list receive. Obviously, you want to include your book (that’s the whole point),
but the other books on your list are equally important. They should be geared
toward the same audience as your book and as popular as possible. A popular
Listmania list will appear on the product pages of all the books it mentions.
Generate multiple lists for multiple facets of your book to start to realizing
Listmania’s full potential.
So You’d Like to . . .
So You’d Like to . . . Guides (the
marketing counterpart of Listmania) are informative articles that contain links
to their sources within the body of the article. They’re accessible from the
Author Profile page right next to the Listmania link. They operate on the same
basic philosophy as Listmania, but they give you more flexibility, and
therefore more selling power. Because they also take more work, they are not as
popular, so your Guide articles will not face as much competition as your
Listmania lists. It’s easy to make a Guide by selecting sections of your book
and giving each one a hook that functions as the Guide’s title. Copy a section
of your book into your Guide; connect the Guide to your book’s product detail
page; and then connect other similar books to the Guide as well. If you don’t
have at least one So You’d Like to . . . Guide up on Amazon, you are missing a
key opportunity to increase sales of your book.
Brent Sampson is the
president & CEO of Outskirts Press at www.outskirtspress.com and the author
Simplified (available as a free e-book at