Amazon, the biggest book retailer in the world, was the first company to see the potential in retailing self-published work.
Indie authors have reason to be very grateful to Amazon for their then radical move of presenting every book to readers in precisely the same way, whether it was an already-known author published by a corporate publisher or an indie just starting out. In doing this, Amazon took the most significant step in centuries towards author empowerment and the democratisation of publishing.
It is not an exaggeration to say that Amazon ignited and allowed the self-publishing revolution. And the company continues to lead the way in innovation and reach, providing an excellent range of self-publishing tools that allow us to create work in print, audio or digital formats.
Amazon has an internal marketing system (known to writers - awed tone, please - as: 'The Algorithm') that is second-to-none. The more books you sell, the more your book gets promoted and the more visible your book will be (in listings, on recommendation queues and so on). It's a benign circle that has a major effect on book sales, if you can get picked up.
So before you expend any time or money on anything else, know that the single best thing you can do for your book is to get your Amazon Pages right. Employing the techniques below don't guarantee that you'll become an Amazon bestseller but failing to use them almost certainly consigns your book to obscurity.
When your prospective reader lands on your book page or author page, they are half thinking: Why should I NOT buy this book or this author's work. Your book pages and author page should work to rid them of fears that they won't enjoy it, that it's no good, poorly edited, over-hyped, not likely to be worth the investment of money and time. Imagining what their objections to buying your book might be and setting out to allay them will put you in the right frame of mind to tackle your Amazon pages.
Here is where readers, especially those who are unfamiliar with you, can learn more about you and your books.
Amazon's Author Page facility is improving all the time and now can include a biography, photos, blog feeds, videos, twitter and event listings (for virtual and in-person events).
Your page also contains images and links to the books pages for all your titles on Amazon, in all formats -- ebook (kindle); pbook (createspace) and audiobook (audible). Essentially, it's like Amazon hosting a mini-website for you in their shop.
PHOTO: Lots of our members put a book picture instead of a picture of themselves in their Author Profiles on Amazon, Facebook etc, thinking nobody is interested in seeing what they look like or that they don't look "good enough" (modest lot, us authorly types).
This is a mistake. All research confirms that readers buy more books when they see a picture of the author, and regardless of what we look like apparently (forgiving lot, those readerly types), though if you're young and gorgeous it won't go against you here, as anywhere else.
Head and shoulders shot is favoured, with an open and friendly expression and make sure they can see your eyes.
PROFILE. It's not enough to just tell people a bit about yourself. It's not enough to be interesting. The aim here is to try to be nothing less than fascinatingly compelling. While still being you.
A challenge, yes, but you are a writer and this is the second most important piece of writing you'll do all year. (The first is your book descriptions, see below)
EXTRAS: These all help to supplement your biography and show your best side off.
So if you blog, add your RSS feed (which will display your latest post). Upload your best videos or book trailers. Import your twitter feed if you have one. All these help the reader who doesn't know you to trust you as a writer -- and gives those who've enjoyed your book more information about who you are and what you represent.
AMAZON PEN-NAME. Some writers like to use a pen-name as a marketing tool on Amazon, putting a keyword related to their books into their name. Supposing I write keep-fit books and my name is Kate Evans. I can call myself 'Keep Fit Kate' or 'Keep Fit Kate Evans', and use that name when reviewing books on Amazon, making browsers who read my reviews about other fitness books more likely to click through to my page.
Like most book marketing techniques, this is easier and more useful, generally, for nonfiction writers. But genre fiction writers can also benefit (Mystery Meg, Dan "Thrills and Spills" Carew and so on).
You can learn more about here about Amazon Pen Names.
Amazon also provides a neat Author URL for you to use in your emails, on Twitter etc. Orna’s is: http://www.amazon.com/author/ornaross.
Here's how to create your own Amazon Author URL.
Improve your BOOK DESCRIPTION￼￼￼￼￼￼
The book description is the most important piece of writing an indie author does. These few paragraphs are core to your self-publishing efforts yet many writers resist, throwing off a top-of-the-head description or a few sentences of summary. Even those who are making an effort may not be sure of what they are doing, or why.
There are two dimensions to your book description: Persuasion and keywords.
PERSUASION. Your product description is your chance to show what you’ve got and tell the reader why they need to buy this book right now.
You have 30 seconds or less to persuade someone, to overcome their innate resistance to buying -- so don’t simply describe what's in your book, tell the potential reader why they need it. ￼ Evoke their emotions by using power words that sell.
TELL PROSPECTIVE READERS THE FOLLOWING (ALWAYS)
Fiction or Creative Nonfiction:
- the central conflict.
- who the main characters are
- what are their goals
- why they're not having a good time of it. (Good time = bad novel),
- what's at stake.
- where it's set
- why they probably can't solve the problem (raise a doubt)
- What problem the book will solve
- Why they have the problem, common obstacles and how the will overcomes them
- Other benefits of reading the book
- What they'll learn that they don't already know
- Why you're the person to help
- Some examples
KEYWORDS: Use google keyword search tool to find keywords to use in your title and book description.
Write down several words or phrases that you believe readers would be likely to search for when looking for your book. Check these with the Google Keyword Tool to find out roughly how many people search for those words phrases. Then look through the list of other, related phrases that people actually look for.
For example, if I've written or want to write a keep fit book, I google search the keywords /keep fit/ and I find 74,000 people searched that term in the past month. But I see that more than 37 million people search for /fitness/. I should then choose to use fitness as a term rather than keep fit, in my title, book description, author profile and so on.
This research is much easier for fiction than non-fiction and is ideally done before you decide on your title.
THE LIKE BUTTON
Does having more ‘Likes’ affect the Amazon algorithm? Some say yes.
Even if it doesn’t, when customers see a book with a lot of likes, it warms them a little more. So it doesn't hurt to ask those who have liked your book to go to your page next time they are on Amazon and say so by clicking the 'like' button. It only takes a second.
GET MORE REVIEWS.
Sock puppetry notwithstanding, more positive reviews = more sales. ALLi has a comprehensive list of sites that accept self-published books for review on our member-only Facebook group. Here’s a post with some other ideas
1. Find Amazon reviewers interested in your topic (who have reviewed something similar) and offer a free review copy. Amazon’s Top Reviewers are here: http://www.amazon.com/review/top-reviewers.
2. When you receive nice words about your book, an email or comment on social media, ask right away if they wouldn't mind posting it as an Amazon review. If they really like you and they are a member of Goodreads, ask them to cross-post here too (see below)
3. Visit forums and offer free copies in exchange for reviews. Try Goodreads, Facebook, the KindleBoards, the NookBoards, the MobileRead forums. Just wander around, offering your book and see who takes you up.
4. On the final page of your book, ask for a review. Keep it simple, just something like: "If you've enjoyed this book, please consider leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads (or ideally, both). Many thanks."
OPTIMISE BOOK CATEGORIES & TAGS.
Categories and tags are key to how your book performs on Amazon and whether it gets picked up for the various lists and marketing tools that Amazon provides.
-- Cateogries are chosen by you, when publishing the book.
-- Tags are chosen by you, and your readers on reading the book.
In her book Amazon Categories Create Bestseller, indie Aggie Villanueva calls categories "the inverted pyramid point from which all your other rankings are drawn throughout Amazon". The categories in which you place your book is the single-most important influence on how high you rise in Amazon lists.
This is, then, an important topic and will be getting its own post in this series. In the meantime, just to say that members often put their book into the broadest category - say, fiction - thinking this means it reaches a wider audience. The opposite is the case. Narrow your audience by choosing the smallest sub- or sub-sub-category that is relevant, so your book has a chance of making its mark.
An Amazon "tag" is a keyword that helps readers find your book through searches. For instance, for our fitness book, relevant tags might include “diet”, “pilates”, "weight-loss" and so on. Again, use Google keyword tool to help you refine your tags.
Popular tags generate communities and discussions around them and if your book features in such discussions, it can be a real boon to sales. We will be looking at tags more deeply in a later post in this series.