The self-published British sci-fi novelist Simon Denman has drawn on his own experience from launching his bestselling sci-fi novel “Connected” to deduce valuable advice how to harness and benefit from the algorithms used by Amazon and other influential sites to determine your book’s visibility and sales reach.
Most authors I know enjoy marketing about as much as filing tax returns. And while time spent on the former ought to increase time spent on the latter (in a good way), the correlation isn’t always obvious. As the 19th century merchant, John Wanamaker, famously quipped, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”
For authors, there is a bewildering array of promotional opportunities available and little agreement on which work and which don’t. The problem is compounded by the fact that few of us ever try things in isolation, since whatever tactics we employ, we generally want to do everything we can to maximise their success.
The Mysteries of Bookbub
There is one ad service however, which often gets singled out as reliably effective, at least in the US, and that is Bookbub. In just two years, this company has acquired an email list reported to contain over two million readers in the USA, large numbers of which seem to buy books. (Bookbub has also just arrived in the UK.)
As a result, they can afford to be both very selective and very expensive, although as a periodic advertiser with them myself, I can confirm that providing you time it right, the expense is usually repaid at least twice over in sales.
For me however, the interesting thing about Bookbub, is not the fact that it does work, but why?
At first glance we might assume that the full 15,000 additional free downloads or the 1,500 incremental 99p sales we got from running the ad, all came from their subscribers, but this is unlikely, since it ignores the contribution from Amazon’s algorithms!
Amazon’s algorithms determine how often your book is shown to all their other customers, and although details are never divulged, analysis of my own results as well as those of other authors (particular thanks to Wayne Stinnett on Kboards forum here), reveals the following:
To engage the algorithms usually requires a catalyst beyond simply running free or discount promos, so a Kindle Countdown with no external promotion may not be enough.
- External ads only need to drive above average sales volume over a short time-frame.
- The algorithms reward upward trends but drop all others – so if your 3-day promo peaks on day 2, the momentum can disappear overnight.
- The faster the climb, the more the algorithms will boost that climb.
- The higher the pre-promo starting rank, the greater the subsequent boost and the longer it lasts.
Top Tips for Managing Algorithms
So for best results:
- Think of book promotions only as catalysts to engage Amazon’s algorithms.
- Schedule free or discount promotions and use ads only to promote those promos – never the book by itself.
- Schedule your ads and other promotional activities in the order of smallest to greatest reach. So if you’re using Bookbub, make sure their ad runs on the very last day.
Influencing these algorithms is like moving something large and heavy. One person can shift it a little, multiple people can move it more, and an elephant will move it a lot. But this doesn’t mean that elephants are the only solution.
In book promotion, Bookbub is currently an elephant you can use, if and when it allows you (every six months). Thankfully, for the rest of the year there are dozens of other catalysts such as Readers in the Know*, EreaderNewsToday, Pixel of Ink, and FreeBooksy, to name just a few, which, if properly combined and synchronised, can get your sales moving just as effectively, and for a fraction of the cost.
* Readers in the Know is a service devised and launched by Simon Denman earlier this year.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
Have any of Simon’s top tips here worked for you? Do you have other advice on this top to share? Please feel free to join our conversation via the comments box.
How to sell more books by harnessing Amazon’s algorithms by @SimonDenman via @IndieAuthorALLi: https://selfpublishingadvice.org/algorithms/”