As the president of an on-demand publishing company, I have seen authors earn hundreds, thousands, and tens of thousands of dollars a month in book royalties purely from online sales. In many cases, most of those online sales came from Amazon.
Finding success in the Amazon.com jungle comes down to exposure. You need to expose your book to as many eyeballs as possible, which means that as many people as possible should see the detailed product description page for your book.
The more visits to your description page, the better your book is going to perform. Simply put, the Amazon algorithm favors the most popular items, so if two different products match a user’s criteria, the more popular one will show up first.
The merchandising machine under Amazon’s hood is designed to deliver the most customized experience possible to each user. Its ultimate goal is to present users with other products they will purchase. But that’s good, because it means Amazon will do the hardest part of selling for you—prequalifying buyers according to their preferences. These preferences are determined in terms of a complex history of every product bought or looked at, every review written, and every link clicked. Because each user’s shopping preferences are stored in its memory, Amazon can make sure that the people who see your book are likely to be interested in it.
Publishers can take advantage of Amazon’s abilities in several ways. Some of them are free, and three of them are also useful at BarnesandNoble.com, as noted below.
Since few things on Amazon are more important than ensuring that your product detail page is as comprehensive as possible, provide details about every element of your book (they don’t call it a “detail page” for nothing). Even if the page already includes Editorial Reviews and a Product Description, take the time to add material. Amazon provides a detailed form you should fill out to take full control of all the information on your product page; visit www.amazon.com/publishers and click on Add Descriptive Content and then on Book Content Update Form. To modify or enhance content on Barnes & Noble, send an email (always include the ISBN) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Time is money. One of the easiest ways to increase exposure for your book is to pay Amazon to pair it with a related title that has a very high sales ranking. They call this the BXGY (Buy X, Get Y) promotion. It costs $500 to $1,000 per month; information is available at www.amazon.com/coop.
When you join the Amazon Associates program, you can use its “affiliate links” to link your site to your product detail page at Amazon. You should also link to similar products, including similar books. Join the associates program at www.amazon.com/associates. B&N has a comparable Affiliates program, found at www.barnesandnoble.com/affiliate.
Amazon’s Search Inside program involves digitizing your entire book for the Amazon database. Whatever your feeling about the rights issues this raises, consider its benefits for you. The more data the Amazon Merchandising System has about your book, the more likely it is to expose your book to a user who has exhibited interest in the book’s subject matter in the past. For example, full digitization of your book increases the likelihood that it will appear in Amazon searches. To learn about Search Inside, visit www.amazon.com/searchinside.
The Amazon Marketplace allows other individuals or companies to sell your book from your product detail page. They can sell new or used copies and set prices accordingly. Do not compete with other Marketplace listings. Instead, complement them with your own. For example, enter a description of your book that no one else can claim: “Direct from the author,” or “Signed copy.”
Your book should have as many reviews as possible. The Amazon algorithm examines the number of reviews and the reviews’ ratings when determining exposure levels. Encourage everyone you know to write a five-star review, and then find ways to motivate people you don’t know to do that too. Also encourage those same people to indicate that all the other reviews posted for your book are “helpful.” This is one of the most overlooked and easiest methods of increasing your book sales on Amazon (and at B&N.com). Reviews can be posted directly from the product detail page. It is even easier to compose your own reviews than it is to solicit reviews from others. Write as many reviews as you possibly can of every book you have ever read but particularly of books that are similar to yours. Mention your own book in each review you write.
For 55 percent of the cover price, Amazon lets you list your book through its Advantage Program and handles fulfillment. Alternatively, you can create an on-demand edition of your book by working with a company like mine that will handle listing, printing, fulfillment, and shipping for your book for as little as 20 percent. If you do decide to look for an on-demand publishing firm, find one that lets you set your own trade discount and retail price. It’s important to have control over the retail price so you can ensure the on-demand edition is priced the same as the offset edition (if possible).
As part of its efforts to foster a community between authors and readers, Amazon’s Author Connect feature allows each author to create a personal profile. These biographies can be tailored to encourage book sales. Authors can also post bibliographies of all the books they have ever written as well as personal messages that automatically proliferate to all their applicable product detail pages. If one of an author’s books is not selling well on Amazon but another is, Author Connect can help. Use its Author Postings feature on the product description page for the title that is performing better to draw attention to the title that isn’t moving. Sign up at www.amazon.com/connect.
After you create an author profile, Amazon gives you an easy way to manage one of the greatest services it offers—Listmania. You will find a link to Listmania Lists at the bottom of the Author Profile page under a heading that says More to Explore. Basically, Listmania is a customizable top-25 list that you create and manage yourself. The trick to Listmania is to offer valuable lists so that other people read them. The more popular your list is, the more exposure the products within your list receive. Obviously, you want to include your book (that’s the whole point), but the other books on your list are equally important. They should be geared toward the same audience as your book and as popular as possible. A popular Listmania list will appear on the product pages of all the books it mentions. Generate multiple lists for multiple facets of your book to start to realizing Listmania’s full potential.
So You’d Like to . . . Guides
So You’d Like to . . . Guides (the marketing counterpart of Listmania) are informative articles that contain links to their sources within the body of the article. They’re accessible from the Author Profile page right next to the Listmania link. They operate on the same basic philosophy as Listmania, but they give you more flexibility, and therefore more selling power. Because they also take more work, they are not as popular, so your Guide articles will not face as much competition as your Listmania lists. It’s easy to make a Guide by selecting sections of your book and giving each one a hook that functions as the Guide’s title. Copy a section of your book into your Guide; connect the Guide to your book’s product detail page; and then connect other similar books to the Guide as well. If you don’t have at least one So You’d Like to . . . Guide up on Amazon, you are missing a key opportunity to increase sales of your book.