Last Saturday I drove to Ventura to attend the 805 Writers’ Conference, mostly for the chance to hear Penny one more time. Penny is the author of How To Sell Your Books by the Truckload on Amazon.com, a catchy title for me since that is what I try to do. What I like about Penny is she keeps herself current in a digital publishing world that moves at light speed. And she shares what she learns.
She did not disappoint. And I heard other speakers who would have been well worth the trip all on their own. I hoped to come away with some tips for maximizing my sales on Amazon. Why Amazon? That was deftly illustrated in a presentation by Sabrina Ricci. She put up a pie chart of distributors of books today by volume. Apple had a large piece, so did Barnes & Noble, a few others joined them to almost fill in a third of the circle. The rest? You guessed it––Amazon. If you succeed on Amazon, you succeed in the book world.
So then, how do you succeed on Amazon? As we all know, there isn’t a magic bullet. There are a lot of things you can do to improve your sales, a lot of small things to tweak your visibility. Assuming you have a good product, visibility is what you want. As Penny says, you need to stop thinking about Amazon as a book distributer and see the site as a search engine. Readers search, authors try to be searchable.
A large tool, a very large tool on Amazon is the review. A truckload of reviews is good, a truckload of good reviews even better. To get reviews, the author must request them. This comes easier to some than to others. There is risk of refusal, there is risk of receiving a poor review. And there is the chutzpah needed to ask a favor of people, often strangers. If you sit back and wait for the reviews to roll in, you will be disappointed.
Another tool in your drawer is the keyword, or more specifically, the keyword strand, a series of words to identify your book. Each individual word in the strand is a little clue to help steer the reader to your book. Key words can be placed everywhere: in your book description, subtitle, author bio––all are searchable.
The genre category you select to identify your book is of utmost importance for two reasons. First, if you select well, the reader who really wants to read your book will find it. The most acid reviews I have received have come from readers who expected one thing, and got another. You can’t prevent it entirely, of course, but you can prevent it most of the time. The second reason is category size. If you select an extremely popular category, you will never crack the top 100. Amazon likes books in the top 100 and will push them, no matter how narrow the category. You have two opportunities to select your category––choose well.
Remember this about Amazon: they want you to sell well. Their algorithm is built on that. The more you do to help yourself, the more they do to help you. The rich get richer, the poor stay poor.
I am in the process of transferring all my notes and tips from the 805 to folders in my computer, aligned and worded to be useful to me. It’s going to take a long time. After I have recorded them all, I won’t have time to apply every one. I’ll pick and choose, try the ones that make the most sense for me at a particular point in time.
Yes, all of this takes a lot of time. But remember this: if a traditional publisher contracts for your book, it could be as long as two years before anyone sees it.