Time is your most precious resource as an indie publisher. It’s the one thing that you can’t get back or accumulate. And when it comes to helping readers discover you and your work, Amazon.com can be a huge, time-saving ally. This is because Amazon is calibrated to sell your work, provided that you have done the necessary tasks to get the Amazon algorithm to work in your favor. What is this mysterious algorithm you ask? Well, no one knows exactly (unless they are programmers at Amazon!). But what we do know is how Amazon helps to sell your book to readers and what you need to do to make that system work even harder for you.
If you are traditionally published, this is where you lose control over your ability to manipulate Amazon in your favor – and if your publisher doesn’t do these key things, chances are your work will drift into obscurity. I recommend that you push your agent to influence the publishers digital marketing department in this direction. After all, it is in your and their best interest to do so.
Amazon.com is more than the world’s largest book retailer. They offer the best FREE ways to be discovered by readers everywhere. The keys to author discoverability are in their closely held algorithm.
Search for your favorite book genre on Amazon. If you look at the right side of your screen you will see a drop-down box which reads Sort By. See it? When you click on the drop down, Amazon reveals many of the ways it delivers books to readers. You have RELEVANCE, which is related to a book’s category; newness and popularity, which is related to publication date and a combination of daily/hourly sales; PRICE – high to low and low to high, which is self-explanatory; AVERAGE CUSTOMER REVIEW, which is also self-explanatory, but EXTREMELY important to discoverability on Amazon; and PUBLICATION DATE, which allows readers to sort titles from newest to oldest. Amazon also just released a new filter, MOST REVIEWS which is pretty straight forward and ranks books within a given category by sheer number of reviews whether good or bad. Other ways Amazon makes books discoverable are the customers who viewed this item also viewed scrolling bar, Amazon bestsellers rank updated hourly, customers also bought items by which is a recommendations algorithm, and just for you, another recommendations algorithm. Include the Amazon author profile, Book extras (integrated with Amazon’s reader community – Shelfari), what other items do customers buy after viewing this item, KDP Select, Amazon prime, and Listmania; and you can see why with these tools, Amazon has upended the publishing industry.
To maximize your Amazon presence, follow these 4 steps and watch how Amazon helps your sales rise!
- Beautify your book description – when you upload the book to KDP, Amazon asks you for a short description. This description can be edited on Amazon Author Central but you need to spend some time getting this part right. For cues on what works, look at the top 25 selling books on Amazon in your genre and copy the style of description you see there. Remember that you have more real estate than what you would typically find on the back cover of a novel. Use it!
- Clarify your Categories – after the book description, you need to get your categories right. Amazon lets you choose only 2 categories and these category selections determine how easy or difficult it will be to break into the top #100 bestselling books. The trick here is to be as specific (and creative) as possible. If you wrote a Dystopian fiction Zombie novel targeted at young adults, think about using the Juvenile Fiction > Science Fiction category and the Juvenile Fiction > Social issues > Violence as opposed to General Fiction. It will be significantly easier to rise to the top of these categories than competing with Katniss and World War Z!
- Pressure test your Price – price is king on Amazon. This is one lever you have to really put some thought towards before going one way or another. My approach is to research the top 10 books in my category and look at their average price (discarding the free titles). Your book should be in line with this pricing average or reference price as I like to call it. You can go below this price point but there is no rationale or benefit to pricing your book above it.
- Rev up your Reviews – one of the most important tasks you have both pre and post book launch is to generate (hopefully positive) reviews for your work. I have found that Amazon works a little harder for you once you get past 50 reviews. The right way to get reviews is to simply encourage readers to do so of their own free will – with no influence from you. But you have to remain diligent and persistent to get them. Another tactic here is to target book bloggers who prefer books in the genre you write. The issue here is that everyone uses this tactic so you are going to have to wait in line. The other way is to give away FREE copies of your books in return for honest reviews. Use these 3 approaches and you will soon see the reviews pouring in.
There are more tasks that can be done to boost your Amazon presence, but these 4 are the core to get your started.
This concludes our discussion on Getting Found. Let’s move on to the next pillar of Author Discovery, getting feedback!