You click on your Amazon book sales page for the third time and hit the refresh button. Those numbers can't be right- can they? You published more than a month ago and you've only got ten sales and three reviews? How can that be? You thought Amazon was a user-friendly space where it would be easy to promote your books. You've done everything you can think of and still, you're not seeing results.
If you feel like chucking your computer at the wall and calling it quits- DON'T.
If you've been struggling to increase your book sales online, you're not alone! Self-publishing is no easy task, but the good news is that you can learn how to make it work for you. Given the right knowledge and persistence you CAN increase your book sales. What you need to know first is how Amazon's algorithm works.
Why Does Amazon's Algorithm Hate Me?
Stop being dramatic. It doesn't hate you. While it can be unbearably frustrating to work with something you have no control over, remember: The algorithm isn't your enemy. It's not a gatekeeper to book sales nor is it purposefully getting in the way of your goals. All an algorithm is is a process or set of rules that a computer, app, or software program is told to follow. This means the answer to getting it to work for you is simple- you have to understand what it does and why.
Amazon is the largest bookstore in the United States. The purpose of their algorithm is to best serve Amazon's customers (in this case readers) who are searching for a specific book or type of novel. It's main job is to make relevant book recommendations to these readers that they may like. It's the equivalent of a librarian who searches the library for titles within a genre and can guide you towards a book you might enjoy.
Like a librarian may need a card system or a computer to find the resources you seek, the algorithm needs plenty of data to do the same. The way it receives this data is through data inputs, which put simply, is the information you provide about your book. It stands to reason that the more information you give about your book (meaning the more data the algorithm has), the more it will recommend your book to a potential reader.
What Kind Of Information Is The Algorithm Looking For?
Knowing what the algorithm needs to help you is the next step. What it looks for are keywords, genres, reviews, sales, downloads, sales rank, and browse activity. In order for Amazon to promote your novel and boost visibility, you have to use a combination of all of the above. In this article we'll teach you how to optimize your book to get better results overall. Keep reading!
How to Market a Book Third Edition (Books for Writers)
I’m Joanna Penn and back in 2008, I had no book sales, no audience, no website, no social media, no podcast, no email list. No nothing. Now I’m a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of thrillers and non-fiction. My books have sold over 500,000 copies in 158 countries, and I’m an award-winning creative entrepreneur and international speaker, making a multi-six-figure income with my writing. Learning how to market my books and my personal brand changed my life. How to Market a Book is for authors who want to sell more books, but it's also for those writers who want to think like an entrepreneur and build a long-term income.
5 Ways To Sell More Books On Amazon
1. Sharpen Your Book's Description
Your book's description is your reader's first impression of your story. Part of the reason you're not seeing sales could be that your blurb isn't strong enough. A compelling description is the key to communicating to your potential reader (and the algorithm) what the essence of your book is about. By tweaking your book's description and updating it every now and again, you increase the chances of coming across the golden combination. Trying out different blurbs and adding new details will help you to find the best way to communicate with your target reader over time. Here's a few things you absolutely should have for a killer book description.
Watch the video below to see your book description must-have's.
2. Research Categories & Keywords Periodically
Categories and keywords are the algorithm's best friends, and by extension yours too. These are the tools that help the algorithm to find and organize books and other products listed on the Amazon website. Essentially whenever a reader searches for a broader word or a specific pairing of words, the algorithm will respond by presenting a grouping of items associated with said keywords within the appropriate category. For example if you were to search "slow burn" in the "romance" category a bunch of books with those keywords would appear on your webpage. Not sure where to look to set these up? There is an option for both your categories and your keywords in your Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) account.
Categories: When we say categories, we're referring to book genres. In KDP you get to pick two for each book, so you need to choose wisely. Pick only what most closely relates to the content in your book. Here is how Amazon defines it:
“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 are they so important?
Did you know that these categories are the basis for Amazon's charts? Chances are if you didn't, you might have glossed over this when you published and picked something you thought would do well enough. The biggest advantage the category gives is that it directly impacts who finds your novel and who winds up reading it. Think of it like one giant matchmaking service. Readers browsing for books on Amazon are looking to be paired with their perfect reading companion. The categories listed are the different qualities that the companions available have (ones readers find desirable). The individual book pages are the profiles of individual companions. Not all categories, like qualities, suit all readers. This is why it's so important to choose the category that best represents your story. If you don't, the end result, like a bad date, is that your book will be paired with a reader who doesn't fully appreciate it or worse, didn't want it in the first place.
Not sure where you book fits in? No problem! Just browse through the top charts for your potential categories in KDP. Consider each option carefully in relation to your book's contents. Logically, if you wrote a paranormal romance novel that has some suspense elements within it, you wouldn't want to put it in the thriller or suspense category. Your two categories would be paranormal and romance because those are the best fit. Though you may have some suspense scenes, it's not enough to fall into the thriller category, nor are those who are looking to read thrillers looking for a romance-heavy plotline. Likewise if you wrote a true crime thriller you wouldn't categorize it as a romance even though it has a romantic subplot. It would most likely do better in the thriller and true crime categories because they best represent the majority of the book.
Keywords: There's a lot of confusing lingo shrouding keywords. Allow us to simplify it. When you search for an item on Amazon, what words do you use? Whether you knew it or not, whatever you chose was a keyword. When you pick keywords for your book, put yourself in the shoes of your reader. What words or phrases might they use to search for it? Those are the keywords you should use.
To be thorough, you'll want to conduct two searches. The first should focus on finding keywords that are associated with your book's topic. These are the words that you'll want to use in your title and on your book description page in KDP. Keywords placed in the title will show up in the URL for your book, which allows it to be easily searched for, as it will appear in searches for those specific words. See the example below.
You can do the research for this first search a few different ways. You can begin by Googling "keywords for a romance novel" or whatever genre you're writing in to give you some beginning words to work with. You can also use the free KWFinder or if you're using AdWords, Google's keyword planner. To find the most effective keywords, enter the list of words you Googled earlier into the keyword finders. Those with the highest search volume are the ones you'll want to use because it means that this is what the most people are typing in to find books within your topic.
The second search you should be doing one that finds Amazon specific keywords that you can then use for your book. Like categories, you only have a limited number you can use, so choose wisely. Amazon shows you how to effectively use keywords with their Make Your Book More Discoverable with Keywords guide. Here they recommend using the following to find which keywords you should use:
Setting: for example, “1800’s Britain”.
Character types: for example, “single mom” or “veteran”.
Character roles: for example, “female sleuth”
Plot themes: for example, “coming of age” or “family saga”
Story tone: for example, “dark romance”
Taking time to make sure your book is categorized and your keywords are up-to-date may be a little tedious but it makes a huge difference in the long term. When you utilize these tools to their full potential, you make it easier for Amazon's algorithm to do it's job- and you'll see the benefits once your book starts ending up in the right reader's hands.
3. Encourage Reviews
You've heard this advice time and time again. You're probably shaking your head as you read this and saying "Oh yeah, right. Easier said than done". No doubt you've tried it all. Allow us a moment to dispense some wisdom anyways.
You've probably tried asking for reviews, begging for reviews, stressing the importance of them on social media etc. While these are all good ideas, they don't address your target readers, the people who are actually sitting with a copy of your book in their hands currently. Which, when you think about it, is the source of the problem overall. If the people who are reading your book don't know they should be reviewing, then why would they do it? Meanwhile you're wasting time and energy shouting from the virtual rooftops to an audience that couldn't care less because they haven't read and don't plan to read your book.
A simple solution that so often goes overlooked is this: Add the reviews you've gotten already to your book description. Your reviews are virtual recommendations from other readers and distinguished literary professionals. Using them to directly help "sell" your novel is not only smart, but highly effective. It entices your reader to buy because they know that what they're getting is good. Recommendations speak to the quality of your work, as well as the effectiveness of your story overall, whether that's to inform or entertain. It also helps establish your credibility as an author and helps build your author reputation within your genre. These things add up. When you build up the trust and confidence between author and reader, your readers will continue to buy books from you in the future while new readers will trust that they are getting their money's worth when they purchase from you for the first time.
It comes as no surprise that reviews also matter to the algorithm. Here the number of reviews counts more than the average review rating so long as that rating is over 3.5 stars. For perspective, this means having 20 reviews with 4.0 stars is better than 10 reviews with an average of 5.0 stars.
Enough statistics. How do you get people to review?
How to Market a Book: Overperform in a Crowded Market (Reedsy Marketing Guides)
Writing a book is hard. Marketing it can be even harder.Marketing a book in 2021 can seem like a full-time job, what with the crazy number of things authors seem to be expected to do: social media, blog tours, advertising, price promotions, mailing lists, giveaways, you name it. But here’s a little secret: you don’t need to do all those things to successfully set your book on the path to success. What you need is a solid plan to find the one or two tactics that will work, and start to drive sales… in a minimum amount of time. And that’s exactly what you’ll find in this book.
There are two strategies you can implement to help boost your chances of getting reviews.
Ask Your Readers
There's several ways you can reach out to your readers, but the most effective is through your email list. Don't have an email list? That's your weakness. Go back to the drawing board and get one started. As an author your email list is your direct lifeline to your readers. It not only allows you to communicate with your target audience (the people who are most loyal and most likely to purchase your book) but it acts as a funnel that leads them directly to a place where they can purchase your future novels. It keeps them informed, updated, and builds trust because they can get to know you better. Plus they gain incentives such as behind-the-scenes secrets about your writing process and chances to read sneak peeks of your new novel early. A good rule of thumb is to email your readers and ask them to help you build reviews. Appeal to them whenever you have a book coming out, during sale campaigns, and gently remind them in your monthly newsletters. Remember to always include your review link in the back promotional pages of your book and also in the back pages of your Ebook as well.
ARC (Advance Reader Copy) Reviews
The second way to ensure reviews is to plan ahead. To make the most of your book launch, consider ways to gain reviews before you even release your book. The way to go about this is to form an ARC group before you publish publicly on Amazon. Asking your most engaged readers to leave a review in exchange for a free copy of your book is an effective way to line up reviews that can then be posted to your Amazon (and Goodreads) book page on the day your book launches. What this means is that you won't have to wait days, weeks, months (or never) for those reviews to roll in. You take the guesswork out of your reviews by guaranteeing you have what you need. Already published and struggling to gain reviews? You can still apply this tactic whenever you feel you need to, you just wouldn't call it by the same name.
4. Keep Author Bios Current
You've got a strong book description, appropriate keywords, and reviews to speak for you, now it's time to focus on your author pages. Amazon and Goodreads allows authors to set up author pages that act as the main hub for all their titles. On Amazon you can do this through Author Central. The reason you want to keep your page updated and current is because it makes a difference to the algorithm. Going back to what we said in the beginning, the algorithm relies on the information you provide. A lot of valuable data comes from your author page. Some examples are: which readers follow your author page, which readers browse your author page, which other titles are in your catalog, etc. All of this information allows the algorithm to appropriately promote your books to readers who are already interested in you and your work. You can help it along by doing the following:
A Personable Biography
This is your space to connect with your readers on a personal level. Show them your personality in a creative way. Share what's most important to you in this world- family, friends, pets. Tell us why you write, how you got your start, and who your muse is. Tell us what other hobbies you have besides writing, what your favorite book is, and any other fun facts that make you- YOU. Readers want to know who is behind the pen so they can root for you.
A Professional Headshot
Investing in a professional headshot is 100% worth it. It shows that you take yourself and your writing serious, which lends credibility to your work and your author brand. It also helps your author brand look polished and well-thought out. While it can be pricey, you can find discounts for local photographers in your area at places like GroupOn. You can also reuse these photos on social media and on your author website so it's something you'll use constantly, which makes it cost-effective.
Your Previously Published Books
Make sure you list/link all of your published works on your author page. It allows readers who have found and enjoyed one of your books the ability to easily find more. It's like a trail of breadcrumbs, only with books!
Book Trailers Or Promotional Videos
Get the most out of your promotional materials by making sure you have it linked to your author page. The more mediums you have to attract and entice a potential reader, the better.
Image Credit: Clayton Noblit's article on Written Word, accessed on 8/30/21.
A great example of a healthy author page is Joanna Penn's Amazon Author Page pictured above.
Blog Post Feed
If you have a blog, make sure it's connected. Another great way to keep readers updated on the latest book news, your blog provides more insight to readers about your writing process and relevant events.
A great feature is the follow button. Enabling this action allows readers to automatically get notified via Amazon when your next book comes out. It's a win/win for both you and your readers!
Social Media And Website
Make sure all your relevant social media accounts and your author website are present and available to your following. These provide more information about who you are (in different forms) to your reader, gives them a fun way to interact with you, and learn more about your stories.
Adding a customized URL that has your author name in it is a simple way to ensure that readers can search and find your author page online.
5. Promote Actively & Consistently
Marketing your book is the final (never-ending) step in your author journey. In order to gain traction on Amazon you MUST actively and consistently be promoting your book. Part of this is to gain visibility and attract new audiences. Another is to maintain and entertain those readers who have been with you from the start. And another still is to drive your sales higher by purposefully applying marketing and sales strategies to reach a targeted goal. Remember, as an author your job is one part writing and two parts selling. A writer who writes but cannot sell a copy of their book is one who will never see the Best-Sellers list nor make a return on their investment.
Books that are being purchased or downloaded via Kindle Unlimited/free downloads attract the attention of the algorithm because there is consistent action being taken. The more sales are being made, the more the algorithm will promote your book. This happens as a kick-back to success that furthers the sales of an already successful book.
You've probably looked at those "also bought" or "you might also like" sections that pop up along the sides of Amazon pages or whenever you complete a purchase or add it to a list. Amazon is freakishly good at promoting more for a viewer to be tempted by.
Two examples of recommended sections on Amazon.
As an author, you're probably wondering how you can guarantee your novel will show up here. The short answer is that it's a popularity contest. If you take the steps that we've discussed already in this article and gain more reviews and purchases, actively promote your novel so that more viewers click your links, and funnel traffic through your author page, you'll begin to notice your novel popping up for readers who like similar novels within the same genre. The same principle goes for Ebooks on Top Charts. In order to get your novel to appear there, you must increase the number of downloads your Ebook gets. Only when your novel or Ebook gains a large following will it reach Amazon's Best-Sellers list.
If you're a writer who has published on Amazon and are struggling to see sales, don't give up! The author journey is a long game. The good news is that if you consistently work towards your goals, eventually you'll get to where you want to go. Like the process of writing itself, it takes time, patience, and a little elbow grease.
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