There they were. Those two words you thought would never happen. Six little letters. You type slowly and reverently:
The act of completing a novel is huge. Of the billions of people on the planet we are in a very small, select group of Homo sapiens. Soak up the ambiance because shortly you come to the next gargantuan phase of your book: publishing.
You can have your book published on Amazon within a few days. You can use their cover designer for free. You just upload the pdf, collect your ISBN and POOF you’re published. You can do it in your underwear, or less. Clickity clack – baddaboom baddabing. AUTHOR!
Ooooooor, you can compose a query letter, a synopsis and prep a few select gorgeous pages of your work and try courting the shy and elusive literary agent or traditional publisher. And then await the rejections! I am in a group on Facebook that celebrates the Rejection Letter. Mostly they are pre-written form letters and ironically sometimes contain typos.
There is also a deep, dark secret that transpires at bookstores and libraries the world over. [TRIGGER ALERT] Every bookstore and library participate in the culling of books. Books — pages toiled over and written in blood by a writer — get DUMPED. Sometimes the get purchased by paper recycling company, some take truckloads to the land fills. It’s gruesome. Mass graves for literary endeavor.
I’m at a cross-roads. I’ve completed my novel. I can testify that it is definitely “not bad”. It’s a literary fiction manuscript. No vampires. No spacesuits. It’s about….well, here you can read about it and see what I mean. I had this intense urge to get my manuscript through my editor’s process. I had a drive to finish, to get those pages to Amazon. And then once I was all done I sat with my novel…digitized into a pdf…and I became suddenly aware of relegating my book to the culled pile. Or worse, it never gets to the culled pile because my three friends didn’t have money to buy it and it just sits there, a victim of a lack of marketing and distribution.
Some reports suggest that less than 1% of authors on Amazon create revenue of $50 per day or more. But wait! Use Ads!! That’s right, start paying for your novel to be placed more successfully. It’s maddening.
So here I sit with my little pdf, working on pdf #2 and I’m considering all of the above. I believe I am going to wait for traditional publishing.
Dorothy Parker is one of my all time favorite writers. Bucking gender bias and a trend for women of her day to be poised and graceful, Ms Parker turned the literary world on its head. She wrote deeply and shallowly simultaneously, because that’s how most people are: deep and shallow simultaneously.
As I embark on publishing my first novel I am thrilled to have completed a manuscript. I don’t hate writing, but I do love having written. I feel like I can finally put my big boy pants on and walk down the street…shoes and shirt come later.
If your book is on Amazon, your primary goal will be to sell more books on Amazon. Selling books on Amazon is all about optimizing for the Amazon algorithm. Sound complicated? It can be, but don’t worry we have 5 easy-to-follow steps with detailed instructions that will help you make the most of the Amazon Algorithm.
The Amazon Algorithm Explained
Before we get into the steps, let’s explain the algorithm a little bit. The job of the Amazon algorithm is to best serve Amazon customers (aka readers) who are searching for something, AND to make relevant recommendations to Amazon customers on products they may like.
In order to do it’s job, the Amazon algorithm needs lots of data (called data inputs) about each product (which in your case is a book). The more data about your book the algorithm has, the more it will surface or recommend a product to a customer. When it comes to books, the primary inputs the Amazon algorithm looks for are: Keywords, genres, reviews, sales, downloads, sales rank, and browse activity. To optimize your book on Amazon, you need to optimize all these inputs for the algorithm. In this article we will show you how to do that so you can sell more books on Amazon. Now let’s get started!
1. Write a Comprehensive Book Description
Your book description is an important component in educating the Amazon algorithm (and human readers ) on what your book is about, and who will enjoy reading it. Below are the elements we recommend that every good book description has:
Accolades – If you or your book have won any awards or distinguishing titles (like bestseller), be sure to mention that in your book description. Anything and everything is worth mentioning. Now is NOT the time to be bashful about your accomplishments.
Comparables – Language that compares your title to best-selling authors and titles will let fans of those popular authors know that they should check your book out next. The basic construct is “if you like [famous book] then you’ll like [your book], but you’re a writer, mix it up a bit. Here’s an example from Sleeping Giants, where they use “In the tradition of…” to drop a few well-known books and authors into the description.
Emotional, gripping language – Be sure to use language that is evocative. Make readers feel something by simply reading your description, and leave them yearning for more. One strategy is to use the first few sentences from a particularly gripping scene in your book which tends to work well. However, don’t limit yourself, you can write evocative questions “Will she make it to the volcano in time?” or statements “Find out if Mike is truly her soulmate or if he has an alternate motive”, But don’t limit yourself to cliches; now is a good time to be creative.
Keywords for your genre – Different genres have different tropes that readers learn to look for. For example, in romance, HEA (happily ever after) stories are popular. If there are keywords that you know readers in your genre are going to be looking (and searching) for, be sure to include those in your description.One thing that you don’t want to do in your book description is to give away the plot. Don’t make it into a spoiler-filled trailer for your book. Instead, tease readers with just enough to make them curious.
2. Research your Categories and Keywords
Both categories and your keywords are important inputs to the algorithm and serve to help new readers discover your book when they are browsing Amazon. You set both your categories and your keywords in your Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) account.
Let’s start with categories. On Amazon your categories are basically your genres, and you can only pick two for each book. When picking a category, be sure to pick the ones that most closely align with the content of your book. In Amazon’s own words:
“A browse category is the section of the Amazon site where users can find your book. Think of the browse category like the sections of a physical bookstore (fiction, history, and so on). You can select up to two browse categories for your book. Precise browse categorization helps readers find your book, so be sure to select the most appropriate categories for your book.”
Why is this important? Well, these categories are the basis for Amazon’s charts. You want the category to match the type of reader you are looking for. If you are writing a spy thriller, don’t pick romance as a category (even if there is a romantic element to your book) because readers browsing the Romance charts are not looking for spy thrillers. In order to see where your book will best fit in, peruse through the top charts for your potential categories, and see where your book would be the best fit. In the example below, we logged into our KDP account (kdp.amazon.com), selected the book we are working on (in our case a Non-Fiction Thanksgiving Cookbook), and scrolled down to the categories section. We then navigated down the categories and checked Seasonal and General under Cooking. This means that our book ranks first in those categories.
Next up: keywords. Optimizing your keywords is a fancy term for picking words you think people are going to search for. Imagine you are a reader, and you go to Amazon to find a book, what will you type in the search box? Get inside the mind of the reader and think about what words to add that will make your book easy to find. You will want to do two sets of research for keywords for your title.
First, you will want to research the main keywords that are associated with your book’s subject matter. These are the words that you will want to use in your title and on your book description page. Keywords that you use in your title will show up in the URL for your book, making it easier for your title to show up in searches for those words. In the example below, when a reader searches for Thriller, the algorithm knows that Hit for Hire is a possible result it can show the reader as Hit for Hire contains “thriller” in the URL, the title and the description.
To do this research, you can use the free functionality of KWFinder, or, if you’re running AdWords, Google’s keyword planner.
For example: Let’s say you’re writing a book on How to Make Dog Treats. When you search for related keywords, “Homemade Dog Treats” has almost 10 times the number of searches (aka Search Volume) that “How to Make Dog Treats” does. This means that you will want your title and book description to use the phrase “Homemade Dog Treats”.
Second, you will want to research the Amazon specific keywords that you will enter for your book. You get to choose just seven keywords for your title, so you want to choose them wisely. Dave Chesson over at Kindlepreneur has a fantastic step by step guide on how to research and select keywords that will allow Amazon to sell your book for you.
Amazon also has a useful resource on how to set keywords for your title, and they recommend focusing on five types of terms:
Setting – for example, “1800’s France”.
Charactertypes – for example, “single dad” or “veteran”.
Characterroles – for example, “female sleuth”
Plotthemes – for example, “coming of age” or “family saga”
Storytone – for example, “dystopian”
When your book is categorized under the correct genres and supplemented by the correct keywords, Amazon will do a better job of getting it in front of the right readers.
3. Get Reviews
We spoke above about how adding a review to your book description can help make your description more engaging to readers. More broadly, having many book reviews gives readers confidence in the quality of your work which will result in more readers purchasing your book. Book reviews are an important input to the algorithm, so this is another area where it’s worthwhile to focus. In our research, we found that the number of reviews is more important than the overall average review rating (as long as your average rating is over 3.5 stars). This means having 25 reviews with an average rating of 4.0 is better than having 5 reviews with an average rating of 5.0 stars. There are two key strategies for getting reviews for your titles:
Ask Your Readers – Do you have a mailing list? You should. If you don’t read our article about email marketing for authors. When your book comes out, email your readers and ask them to help you build reviews. Additionally, always include a link in the back of your book that asks readers to leave a review.
ARC (advance reader copy) Reviews – If you really want to make the most of reviews, try to get them before your book comes out on Amazon. How? Reach out to your most engaged readers and ask them to leave a review in return for an ARC. An ARC is a copy of the book you provide to readers BEFORE the book is actually published. This way, you are lining up reviews that can be posted to your Amazon book page on the day your book launches, and you don’t have to wait days, weeks, or even months, before gaining enough reviews to make a difference.
4. Update your Author Page
Once you have your book listing squared away with a good description, appropriate keywords, and favorable reviews, it’s time to take a look at your Author Page. Amazon gives authors the opportunity to set up a page that acts as a central location for all of their titles on Amazon. You can set up your author page through Author Central. The author page provides more valuable information to the algorithm: which readers follow your author page, which readers browse your author page, which other titles are in your catalog. On your author page you want to have:
A compelling biography – Tell your story in an engaging way. Why do you write? How long have you been at it? What is your inspiration? Do you have a pet, is it cute, and what is its name? These are all questions to which readers want to know the answer.
A professional author photo – It is worth getting professional headshots done so you can have a professional grade photo to feature around the web, It lets readers know that you take your writing, and the business of writing, seriously. Do a google search for local photographers in your area and plan on paying about $100 for a professional portrait. It may seem expensive, but it’s worth it.
All of Your Books – If you have all of your titles linked to your page, then it is much easier for readers who have found and enjoyed one of your titles, to find more!
Book Trailers or Other Promotional Videos – Amazon lets you link in all sorts of content. If you’ve paid to have a book trailer produced, be sure to feature it here.
Feed to Your Blog Posts – If you have a blog, be sure to sync it up with your author page. This way readers who discover you through Amazon can then discover your blog and all of its fun book news as they peruse your books on Amazon.
+Follow Button – If readers are “following” you on Amazon, then they get an automated alert every time you publish a new book. That’s nifty.
Social Media and Website Information – Be sure to link to your other presences around the web so that readers can follow you there as well and see what all you’re up to!
Customize your URL – Make sure that your URL has your author name in it, so that your Amazon page shows up when people search for you on the web.
5. Drive Sales and Downloads of Your Book
The final step to sell more books on Amazon is to generate the data inputs for sales, downloads, and sales rank. To achieve this you will need to market and promote your book. The goal of promoting your book is to:
Drive sales of your book – Good marketing will help drive sales / KU borrows of your book, or free downloads if your book is free. The algorithm is more likely to recommend books that are being downloaded or purchased by readers.
Make your book start showing up in also-boughts. – On every page on Amazon there is a section that says “customers who bought this also bought”. When you promote your title, your book will start showing up in this section on other book’s pages, increasing the numbers of readers who will discover your title. If you do not have enough readers browsing your page, then the algorithm won’t know which similar products to link with your book.
Make your book start showing up on the top charts – Amazon ranks the eBooks they sell according to popularity. When a title is downloaded by a large quantity of people, it will show up on the Amazon Best Seller chart. Many readers come to these charts to discover new books, so if you’re ranking here, you’ll be getting in front of plenty of new readers. Getting in front of new readers means that more people will buy your book, which means that ranking on the charts will help increase your sales rank, which is another input for the algorithm. You can wait for your book naturally to get on the Best Seller chart, but after working with thousands of authors, we’ve found concerted marketing is the best way to get on these charts.
At Written Word Media, we’re huge proponents of running price promotions. It’s one of the things we do best, and we know it works. We recommend running a price promotion and promoting your title to our large audiences of new readers. With over 600,000 readers across Freebooksy, Bargain Booksy,Red Feather Romance, and NewInBooks, running a promotion on one of our sites will be sure to get your title into the hands of readers.
It requires time and effort to optimize your Amazon presence. We understand that for authors, time not spent writing can be difficult to find. However, this is an investment worth making. Amazon is one of the most important places to sell your book, and if you follow these five steps you will have taken the first steps to sell more books on Amazon.
If you’d like some buzz about your book and would like to be featured in the “Author Promo” send in your details as a message to Shirani Rajapakse. You can also tweet her here.
Strictly for self published authors, or authors published thru small presses only – but no traditional or vanity presses.
Here’s what you need to send in:
Your name, the name of the book, genre, something about the book – a blurb would do, a short quote from the book, an author photo, a photo of the book, links to the book (where it can be bought) and links to your blog, FB page Twitter etc, or anyplace you want people to contact you.
Also include a short author bio (max 200 words). Please note only one book per author, so if y’all have zillions of books please select one for this promo. Trying to give everyone a chance.
Launching a book?
There’s a new section coming up for book launches.
It will include the same information as the book promo with some additional details. Contact Shirani on FB to discuss this further.
Bill Scheltema, author of “The Feels” a contemporary romance novel is launching a promotional campaign video called HUG-A-WRITER. This campaign is a great effort to collaborate on our Indie works to cross-promote and break out of obscurity!
All you need to do is to take a few seconds to film yourself saying one of the phrases from the script. It has all the potential to go viral — so click a link and start generating momentum!
IntrovertPRESS is proud to partner with Bill — an unending source of inspiration and energy — to help promote indie authors throughout social media.
I just finished writing my novel. I know, I’m awesome. Er, wait…
I started with an edgy, brilliant idea. I stared writing. I got several chapters in when I discovered I had errors in my timeline. Crap. I made notes to come back to it because the muse was tickling my basal ganglia (look it up — it’s not dirty) so I journeyed onward. I kept writing. A new character would pop in mind – woo hoo – so let’s go there! More writing. Chapters turned into ideas larger than a hippodrome. Stories within stories. The plot got dropped and picked up like a yo-yo. I WILL NOT BE DETERRED! With all the gusto of a Hemingway or an Austen I forged ahead like the untamed Cracken!
But. let’s e serious for a moment, what really happened was my plot became a morphing blob, my characters didn’t know each other and … and… ok, let’s call it what it is:
A FREAKIN’ HOT MESS.
The long story short is…I finished the story with the thinnest of plot line. Once finished I had no idea how to edit the beast I created. I made a plot without the oversight of process.
Writing can be cathartic and explosive and wildly entertaining. That is the essence of a writer. But…. I want to sell books and make a living from writing.
I want to become an AUTHOR.
That’s how I learned the hard way the difference between being a writer and being an author: ya gotta have PROCESS.
And you have to develop your OWN process. That’s the rub – how the @#$ does that happen. Well, my process came to me in cleaning up my raging pile of plot. I realized I needed a timeline, something to keep me understandable to the readers. No matter how much sense it makes to me — it has to make sense to the reader. Creating a timeline keeps ya me honest.
I went to Family Dollar and spent $3.19 on craft paper, Post-its and note cards. I made a note card = 1 chapter. I made yellow Post-its for characters and purple for plot turns. In doing so I realized the holes in my plot, where my characters needed to connect and how the hell I was going to finish the damned novel.
Now that my Chimera-meets-Shapeshifter tragedy of a plot has been transformed into a sleek and ever-understandable story – I have shipped it off to the editor. I look ahead to novel Number 2. For this endeavor I made note cards for all the possible scenes I have in mind. I placed these note cards in order so that I have a timeline to follow. With my note cards in order, I can select where I want to write knowing where it’s placed into the story. I also have built-in mechanism for when Writer’s Block (myth!) occurs, because if I’m organized and prepared to write – Writer’s Block can kiss my [insert your selected body part here].
So the moral of this story is – I have a PROCESS. I plan to hone it during this next novel. Now, my precious little possums, what ‘er you gonna do? Yallz have the Google at your fingertips. Remember…a process will help you “Git ‘er done!”
As always, please share shamelessly to everyone you know.
The Thought: My social media footprint will bring readers to my book.
The Reality: You need to bring your social media footprint to your readers
The statements above may seem like a petty distinction; however, I believe this is why indie books get parked in a stagnant social media footprint. Think of that big footprint left behind by the T-Rex in Jurassic Park. This footprint is created: large, defined and impressive. Enter the monsoon rains (in this metaphor we will say the rains are the flurry of social media activity). The huge imprint fills up with rainfall, but instead of holding onto the rain, the footprint itself is washed away into obscurity.
93.5% of your Facebook followers do NOT see your postings.
unless you are using “Lists” on Twitter, you aren’t really utilizing Twitter
vague titles will kill blog post readership
lack of awareness of what days and hours is most advantageous to post
the list goes on and on…
The items listed above, along with countless other social media concerns, are what we spend our time solving. Social media must be used strategically to meet realistic expectations. If it isn’t used with a heavy dose of critical thinking, it simply will not perform. What it can and cannot accomplish varies somewhat from author to author, but overall it can bring great success if utilized correctly. Introvert PRESS will work to get the most exposure for your book. That’s our goal, plain and simple.
Our blog posts are used to promote:
Your book debut
Your link on our genre publicity pages
Your book review
Press Releases to pertinent news/community agencies about your book
Your appearance on our Author Spotlight series
Your quotes and comments in our Monthly Newsletter
Did we mention that all of this is free?
Please share this post as much as possible. We need to connect with more authors to complete our network goals.