Monday, December 6, 2010

Making the Most of Amazon

As one of the chief platforms for book sales in this emerging era of e-readers and online shopping, Amazon is an irreplaceable resource for authors. Most of us shop there, check our sales ratings there, and watch our reviews there. But if that’s all we’re doing, we’re not taking full advantage of all the tools Amazon offers to help us sell our books. Following is a checklist of the important basics:

Create a secondary account (one with a different user name) and start creating lists that include your book. When readers browse a book on your list, they may well stumble across yours as well.

Amazon hosts a thriving online community. Find a group that matches your book’s subject matter and dive in. Don’t be afraid to mention your book when it flows easily in the conversation, but make sure you’re not jamming it down anyone’s throat either.

  • Author Central Page
    • Add your books. Check to make certain all your books are available on your page. Customers will click your name to discover what else you’ve written.
    • Add a blog feed. Type in the RSS address of your blog, and Amazon will automatically update your Author Page whenever you publish a new post.
    • Utilize images. You’ll want to include your author photo to provide fans a visual connection. But you can also get creative and utilize other images (book signings, etc.) as a marketing feature.
    • Upload videos. Don’t forget to include your book trailer, interviews, and perhaps even a special message from you to your readers.
    • Add your biography. Use a little imagination and use your biography to state more than just the boring facts. You might want to include a mini interview with yourself, like I’ve done.
    • Update events. Keep your groupies up to date on book signings and readings. Amazon shares posted events with their partner site BookTour and sends them around the web to local media outlets, event listing services, and other book-friendly sites.
  • Tags
Amazon uses tags to rank books within various categories. Choose your categories wisely, scroll down your book’s page, past the reviews, to the section titled “Tags Customers Associate With This Product,” then insert your tags. Encourage readers to tag your books and make use of the site Tag My Book on Amazon. The more tags your book has in any given category, the higher it ranks.

If you have extra ARCs or used copies lying around, take advantage of Amazon’s Marketplace to sell them for slightly less than the new copies from your publisher. If you have an author’s discount, you may even want to go further and purchase copies directly from the publisher to sell online. What you make through the Marketplace may be more than what you earn through royalties.

  • Reviews
Amazon reviews are crucial to success. Solicit (politely) reviews whenever you can and go out of your way to thank reviewers whenever possible—even if their reviews are less than stellar.

If your books aren’t already available on Kindle, it’s time to jump on the bandwagon. Some authors are discovering that their Kindle book sales are outpacing their hardcopy sales. If you have a blog, you can also offer it as a subscription to Kindle readers for a nominal fee.

Because Amazon is in the business of selling, it makes it easy for authors to promote their work. Take advantage of those opportunities and watch your sales climb!
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  1. Informative post, Katie. I didn't realize all this was available through Amazon!

  2. What a great post! I'm going to have to save this one for future reference for when I'm finally to the marketing stage. :) Thanks!

  3. @Linda: Amazon knows that if they make it easy for authors to market their own work, Amazon itself will reap the benefits. It's a win-win situation for all parties involved.

    @Liberty: The best part about Amazon's myriad features is that they're all super easy to use.

  4. Great items of note here, Katie. A couple thoughts:

    First, some publishers won't allow you to sell your own books online (they view this as a type of undercutting them) so check with your publisher (or check your contract) to make sure you are allowed to do that before you dive in.

    Second, I've noticed that Amazon has recently started filtering their tags. So you can view items that were recently tagged via the "recently popular" tag - but that might not be the most popular book with that tag (you would find those under the "most popular" category.) I was a little frustrated with this because I worked hard to get my book many tags in several categories that put it on the top of the lists (so it would show up in the "most popular" filter, now.) Awhile back, I noticed that my kindle sales had started to drop off - this coinciced with Amazon adding the filters to their tags - the filters open to the "recently popular" filter. So even though my book has more tags than most of the books in certain categories, it no longer shows up at the top, unless the viewer filters by "most popular."

    Anyhow, hopefully that long ramble is clear. The point I'm trying to make with all this is that just when we start to get some technology figured out (how to use it to our advantage), often things change and we have to switch up our strategy a little. While a little frustrating, I don't think this is such a bad thing.

  5. Thanks for pointing that out, Lynnette. I love Amazon - but it does tend to pull frustrating stunts like that. That one doesn't even make much sense, so hopefully it will revert to its old methods of popular tagging.

  6. Great article. Just one cautionary note....beware of the Amazon message boards. Self-promotion is frowned upon unless it is done on the threads specifically designated for promotion. Authors need to be careful not to alienate potential readers!

  7. I agree. Subtlety is always the name of the game when promoting in such venues. Potential readers can be turned off in a heartbeat by a pushy author.