Amazon’s kindle publishing is not the only ebook publishing game in town. You have the Barnes and Noble competition, which is surprisingly fierce, particularly since they debuted the ability for high selling ebooks to get physical releases. On top of that, you can always set up a storefront of your own and cut out the middleman, using digital distribution from your website. However, Amazon is probably the best of the options. They have the right balance of aspects that help authors and help you make money.
On one hand, Amazon is a massive site with a ton of traffic. Their affiliate program allows you to make a bit more cash on your own sales, and when someone who clicked your referral buys something else, you get a cut of that too. Amazon’s search and recommendations engine does a great job of promoting decent content, and their reviews system is generally well regarded. On top of all of that, they’re very easy to get up and running.
Of course, there are millions of ebooks on Amazon, and more being published every day. To succeed, you need to stand out from the crowd, and that means you need to put some effort in above and beyond what you might need to sell locally on your own site. You certainly can come out among the best sellers, you just need to put in the work.
Luckily for you, I’ve done the research, and I’m here to tell you how you can tweak your submissions, promote your book, and generally succeed through Amazon’s kindle publishing.
Before we begin, I’m going to assume that you’ve already gotten the “writing a book” part down. I’m not going to lecture you about formatting your book, about including graphics, about writing on high volume topics, or anything else regarding the content of your book. That’s all on you. I’m just here to help you make the actual publication a success.
Kindle publishing has a feature called KDP Select. It’s a way for people who have paid Kindle memberships to check out books similar to a library or video store, if you can remember those from your youth. The readers don’t have to pay for your book, but since they’re paying a membership fee, Amazon still profits. They share some of that profit with you. Normal Amazon users can still buy the book, and you still have the ability to give it away for free for time-limited promotions.
The catch is, if you choose to participate in the program, you have to give Amazon exclusive sale rights to the book. In other words, you can’t sell it on iTunes, you can’t sell it through Smashwords, you can’t even sell it on your own website. It has to be available solely through Amazon.
Tristan King decided to go the exclusivity route and sales for his book jumped by six times. That’s one heck of a reason to consider it. It’s up to you if you think being available on more platforms is more beneficial than KDP Select.
I get it. Graphic artists are expensive. They’re freelancers with years of schooling and years of practice put into their work. They want to be paid, and they deserve to be paid. You might feel like you can throw a cover together yourself, because “how hard can it be?” Then you end up looking like the millions of other self-made covers, all of which are unattractive and bland. You’re much better off paying for a professional design.
Here’s the thing; a professional design doesn’t need to be expensive. Fiverr is packed full of graphic artists that specialize in book covers. You won’t get away with $5 for a cover, of course, you’re going to want to buy some extras, but even so. You’re going to get away with a pretty cheap cover, which you can make up for in just a few sales. Trust me, it’s worth the investment.
For reference, the guidelines for kindle direct publishing, specifically for their cover image, can be found here. Most designers on Fiverr will know them already, but just in case, make sure the final product meets their guidelines.
A book promotion train is surprisingly easy to get together. You start by dropping hints that you’re working on a book. Whenever you write something for your blog or another public field, go into how you’re adding more about that topic in your book, if you are. Obviously, don’t just say that about anything even though it’s not in the book.
As the time for publication nears, start building more hype for the book. Send review copies to influencers and ask for their opinions. Promote quotes about it when they’re beneficial. Buy ads to promote a landing page for preorders.
Finally, when promotion arrives, send out a message to your mailing list, notify influencers, send out press releases and do everything in your power to get people looking. That’s what gets people interested, and gets them buying.
On Amazon, one of the best things you can get are positive reviews. Reviews help others decide when they want to read your book. A bad review can tell people your book isn’t innovative, isn’t interesting, or doesn’t bring in value. That kills sales. Worse, you can’t do anything about a negative review aside from try to bury it under positive reviews.
My favorite technique is to pick a handful of influencers and send them copies before the book is officially published. Ask them if they’re interested, and as part of the deal, get them to write reviews for the Amazon page when the book goes live. This gets you a good start from potent influencers.
What you should definitely not do is buy reviews. Most users can tell when a review is purchased, because there are often disconnects between the review and reality. Some are way more enthusiastic than the tone of the book, some say things like “when I read this last month” when the book was published a day ago, and other such mistakes. You don’t want people to be skeptical about the veracity of your reviews, because then they won’t trust any of them, even the legitimate ones.
They say there’s no such thing as a free launch, right? Or was that lunch? Anyways. One technique a lot of authors use, particularly authors that haven’t published a book before, is to offer it for free for the first 12 or 24 hours after publication. Promote the book with this in mind, telling people it will be free for a limited time. This will drum up sales and rentals right away, get you a decent number of reviews, and will give your audience a push to get it early. Those who wait to see reviews will have a more informed decision, but will have to pay when the time comes.
Once you’ve published a number of books, you can put one of the early ones into permafree status. Set the price to zero and use it as an introductory offer to hook people on your writing. Make sure this book is a good representation of what you bring to the table, and people will want to read more by you.
One contest I like is to mention three or four elements of your book, like genre, main character, and setting. Don’t spoil the book. Ask users to come up with a cover for the book, based on the details you’ve given and the title. The submissions you get can be great social media engagement and hype people up for the book.
A similar contest might be a guessing game for the title of the book. If you haven’t mentioned it elsewhere, you can start dropping hints or even work up codes to get your audience to crack. The closer you can get to an ARG, the better.
I have to include this one, but not just because it’s a good idea to pay to promote your book. Specifically, you can pay for a low volume of conversion-focused ads, just enough to get you above the average amount of sales per day for books in your genre. This triggers Amazon’s sorting algorithms to promote your book more.
You don’t need one lump sudden jump in sales, you need slow and steady above average sales for several days.
This is a fun little thing you can do; on the day of release, hold a party on a Google Hangouts or in a Discord chat room. You can field questions, you can organize a book club, you can chat with your fans, and more. By being present, you’re putting more of yourself into your book release than many authors, and you’re getting a closer connection to your biggest fans.
Books aren’t really thought of as the central focus of a referral program, but I like to add some gamification to my campaigns. Set up referral bonuses that give little more than coupons or badges on the site, and you’ll still have people competing to be the best. It’s pretty amazing what people will do when something as intangible as a website button is on the line.
These days, being social is the lifeblood of a good marketing campaign, regardless of what you’re marketing. George R.R. Martin writes his books on a typewriter but he still has a blog and a social media presence. Reddit in particular is great; you can host an AMA or a Q&A on a writing subreddit and get a lot of interest that way.
There’s no easy way to send a message to the people who buy your ebook on Amazon, but if you can track them in some other way, such as through a mailing list, you can send out a reminder email later to ask them to leave you a review.
Ideally, the people who receive the email will be satisfied with your book and will be more than happy to leave a positive review, which helps others buy your book and helps you reach higher recommendation tiers.
If you’ve ever looked at a marketing site before, you’ve probably seen five or six different ways they try to get your attention. There’s the bar at the top that scrolls down over the screen, there’s the lightbox that shows up when you mouse away, there’s the box that slides in when you scroll down, there’s the pop-under, and a whole lot more. These are all ways you can continue to promote your book. Now, I don’t recommend using all of them at once, though I’ve certainly seen people do it.
There are a ton of book promotion networks out there. These range from sites dedicated to broadcasting books, to people who have simply built newsletters and want to sell advertising space within them. The benefit to using them is getting the owner of the mailing list to promote your book to a wide audience. The downsides are twofold. First, some of them will cost a minor fee to list your book, which can be detrimental if you don’t have sales from that source. The other is that these networks generally make Amazon Affiliate links of their own for your content, so you can’t use your own for that sweet benefit.
You can see a list of such sites here. I recommend exploring them to see if any of them catch your fancy. You should be careful and only choose a few of them, however; often they are either targeted by genre or can be a little on the spammy side, so you don’t want your book associated with the negative end of things.
Most of these methods have some way to track information about how well they’re doing. You can track conversions from different locations, you can track how much reviews and quotes from influencers help, and generally monitor the success of your book. All of this information is useful for the next one.
Writing and publishing books is part of a cycle. When you’re done with one, you get working on the next. Learn what you can from the process and optimize it for the next time around. Run better ads, hype with the right people and spend less effort on worse sources, and generally improve the entire cycle. Each time you write a book, it will do better than the last.
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