Here on the Author Marketing Institute site, we are big proponents of spreading out the risk. That’s one of the reasons why we don’t advocate for exclusivity. We feel as though authors should try out every bookselling platform and they should consider going direct to fans with their work. That being said, it’s hard to ignore the 700-pound gorilla in the room that is Amazon KDP.
For most authors, Amazon KDP is their top earner by far. With the impending collapse by typical number two NookPress, that gap could grow even further. Email marketing promotions like BookBub and eReaderNewsToday tend to have the greatest impact on Amazon sales. It’s simply the largest reader platform out there, and if you’re having trouble selling books there, then it’s likely you’re not selling many books at all.
You can read as many Kindle gold rush products as you want, but there is no overarching secret to selling more books on Amazon. There are several best practices that the top selling Amazon authors tend to use frequently. Here are five ways some of the biggest names on Amazon get their books to the top of the charts:
1. Publish More Often
There has long been talk of a 90-day cliff after which your books will make fewer waves in the Amazon algorithm. What this means is that 90 days after you publish a book, it’s less likely to sell. Some authors have used this cliff to their advantage, by making sure they publish a book every 90 days without fail.
This book doesn’t have to be a full-length novel, although some authors are speedy enough to put out novels that quickly. It can be a novella, a short story, or a multi-author box set. It doesn’t seem to matter what you put out, as long as you’re publishing something every 90 days.
Currently, there is talk that the 90-day cliff is now closer to a 30-day cliff. Don’t stress yourself out over needing to publish every 30 days. Simply make sure you’re publishing as often as you can to keep your books higher in Amazon’s rankings.
2. Optimize Your Keywords and Categories
On your Amazon KDP submission page, you can see that you’re able to select up to two categories. Using certain keywords, you can actually get into at least five categories if not more. The trick is that you want to get into categories that make sense for your book’s visibility.
Examine the categories that you’re thinking of putting your book in, and make sure that you pick at least one category that you could potentially rank in. To assess this, look to see what the sales rank is of the 100th-ranked book in your category. Ask yourself if you could perpetually rank that number or higher in Amazon sales rank. If not, continue to look around, because having your book in one of these bestseller categories is a great way to make sure your book is getting seen. Check out David Gaughran’s Let’s Get Visible for more information on categories.
You can also try to get more traffic to your books by using SEO friendly keywords. Test out multi-word phrases related to your book’s subject matter. To do this manually, type in words into Amazon’s search bar and see some of the phrases that Amazon autofills underneath. Using tools like Kindle Samurai and KindleSpy let you do this with ease. However you find these phrases, make sure to include some of them in your book’s description to improve your chances of ranking for those keywords. Nick Stephenson’s book Supercharge your Kindle Sales may help you go more in depth on the subject.
3. Use Permafree
Permafree books can work wonders if you have a series of books on Amazon. There are many success stories of indie authors who shot up the charts after making the first book in their series permanently free. Since free books are downloaded almost 100 times as much as paid books, these freebies give you a major opportunity to reach new readers.
You’ll need to use the other platforms to make a book permanently free, since Amazon doesn’t allow for you to set a book’s price at $0.00. After you succeed at making your book free, use email advertisers to spread the word about your discounted book. This will help you to sell more books throughout the series, and it will move your free books higher in the rankings.
4. Enroll in KDP Select
KDP Select is Amazon’s exclusive loyalty program for authors. There are several benefits that come with KDP Select, including Kindle Countdown Deals and Kindle Free Days. Your book will also automatically be included in the Kindle Unlimited program.
Inclusion in Select is no guarantee of success. In fact, some authors have had less success on Amazon because price-per-borrow rates from Kindle Unlimited have dropped since the program started in late 2014. Authors who’ve had success with Select usually aren’t completely dependent on Amazon. One strategy includes setting the first book in a series as permanently free and making the rest of the books in the series exclusive to Amazon. Another tactic includes partitioning your email list to send out book release announcements to make sure that people buy or borrow the books over the course of several days.
Whether or not you decide to dabble in Select, it’s probably a good idea to keep at least some of your books from being exclusive.
5. Spread Out Your Promotions
Instinct may tell you that it’s best to get a giant sales boost on the first day of your book’s release. In this case your instinct would be wrong. The way the Amazon algorithm works is that it rewards books that have several consistent days of sales. With regular sales for 3-5 days, your book will get stuck at a better sales rank than it would with a one-day sales spike. This is why it’s so important to spread out your promotions.
On your marketing calendar, you should set up at least five straight days of equal promotion. If you have a mailing list, then you should split it up into several parts. Place your Facebook-specific promotions on one day, your Twitter on another, and your Pinterest on a third. The more you’re able to spread it out the better. This is a great launch strategy, but it’s a wonderful anytime strategy as well for boosting an existing book with poor sales.
Feeding The Hand That Bites You
When it comes down to it, Amazon owes you no favors. Just because you’re not making as much money on the platform as you once were doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with the system. Amazon is a multinational corporation and it’s primarily concerned with profit. But it’s a very strong company, and it helps to establish many self-published authors as well.
It may not be perfect, but it’s probably the best way for you to make money selling your books online. Apply the above strategies and you’ll see your efforts rewarded.