Tuesday December 12, 2017
Guest post by Thomas Buckland.
Are you keen to sell more copies of your book on Amazon?
Estimates suggest that the site has 3.4 million books on its virtual shelves at any one time – so, how can you stand out in such an enormous marketplace?
Well, there are some site rules to follow, but the good news is that there are also some basic and fundamental steps you can take yourself that should see your ‘bestseller rank’ fly…
What is an Amazon ‘bestseller rank’?
When you search for a book on Amazon, you’ll notice it has a ‘Product details’ feature on its dedicated page. Within these details you’ll find a numeric position – the Amazon Bestsellers Rank – which gives you an indication of how the book is ranked versus every other book on the site.
Not only does the site give you an indication of an overall rank, but beneath this number you’ll also see how the book ranks in specialist categories.
For example, at the time of writing this, Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ occupied number 385 as an overall Bestseller Rank, but it was also listed as #2 in Books > Science & Nature > Reference > Psychology and Psychiatry.
Why is your Amazon bestseller rank important?
Amazon works in a very similar way to a traditional bookshop. If you’ve walked into one recently, you’ll know that the most popular books occupy point of sale displays as you enter the shop, and Amazon does something similar.
The site takes a book’s current popularity as an indication of how appealing it will be to visitors going forward – essentially an algorithm that says, “People are buying this – it must be good!”
Because of this, the higher your rank, the more people get to see your book.
Now, there are no hard and fast rules around how many books you’ve got to sell to make your way up the rankings, but one thing is for sure: if you’re just starting out, you’re going to need all the help you can get to stand out in any store that has 3.4 million books to browse!
How can you improve your Amazon bestseller rank?
Grab a pen and paper – or bookmark this page – because there’s a list of things you can do that will improve your ranking quickly. We’ll explain each in some detail:
People do judge books by their covers.
That saying that people love to roll out about book covers and judgement might well be true in other areas of life, but ironically, people do assume a lot about a book based on how it looks.
The first part of designing a great cover begins with some understanding of who your target audience will be. Determining this – and creating a brand around it – could occupy a book by itself, so looking at other successful books similar to yours that are currently on the market will give you an idea of what appeals to your chosen demographic.
You might not have the means to invest in a fully bespoke professional design after you’ve gathered some ideas, but there are some great low-cost alternatives. Adobe Spark offers some free and reasonably priced tools, as does Canva.
If you feel like you’ve got the skills yourself, perhaps Microsoft Publisher or Lucidpress could provide a blank canvas to work with.
Proofreading and editing is vital.
When customers read your book, you can expect them to pick up on the tiny grammatical errors and awkward sentence structures that you became blind to when you were writing. What’s worse – you may very well put a book out that could really benefit from being cut down to size a little.
Again, you can employ the services of a professional editor – but for now you might like to show your book to some friends or family that understand what you’re hoping to achieve.
Ask them to read with a notepad and pen to hand at all times, and let them scribble on a printed copy if possible. It’s really important that you impress on them how critical feedback will help the process – believe me, it’s better to make the changes now than when you’ve gone to print and have lacklustre reviews flowing in.
Understand the ‘metadata’ that Amazon references.
If you want Amazon to put your book in front of the most appropriate audience, you’re going to need to give it the data it requires to do so.
If you’re using Amazon’s direct publishing tools, you’re going to be able to select up to two categories for your book – but going beyond this is where some magic can happen.
You’re also given the option of attributing keywords – or keyword strings – to your book. You might decide that your expert guide to self-motivation would be perfect for professionals, so, “motivation” could be a keyword, as well as “motivation for professionals” and “motivation at work” for instance.
Amazon cites these keywords and phrases as optional, but if you want your book to sell, creating keywords that are concise ‘selling points’ of your book can work wonders – especially if you weave them into your description too.
Write a great – but concise – description.
I know; you’ve spent what feels like an eternity putting getting a beautifully crafted book and now we make the frustrating suggestion that you boil it down to a couple of paragraphs!
It’s important to understand that you’re not being unfaithful to the essence of your book when you do this – you’re really just offering people a taste of what they can expect if they read it. The more appealing that taste, the more orders you’ll get.
There’s a useful format to creating good sales descriptions that might help you here – and it’s all about putting yourself in your customer’s shoes. Imagine the kind of information a potential customer is trying to get when they’re looking for their next book.
In essence, they’re asking themselves:
- What’s this book about?
- What does it do?
- How will it benefit me?
If you can answer these questions accurately and positively, you’re far more likely to sell a copy. So, you might give quick indication of what the book is about, followed by description of how the book delivers that information – ending with the impact that will have on the reader.
Make sure it’s 100 words or more - and again, looking at how leaders in your chosen field have described their book will give you some good inspiration.
Plan for an initial big marketing ‘bang’.
Your book will be noticed more – by customers and Amazon’s algorithms – if it has what appears to be a sudden big impact. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to ‘stack’ your marketing activity so it all comes to fruition within the same 48-hour window.
There are professional Amazon marketing services that will help you with this, but you should definitely be putting in the work where you can, too.
While the idea of giving your book away for free might make your toes curl, understand that giving a little can offer a lot in return.
Look at sites like Bargain Booksy and Free Booksy. While on the surface they’re platforms that find free or discounted books for readers, they’re actually sophisticated marketing platforms that will get people reading and buying your book exactly when you want them to – which in turn is exactly what Amazon wants to see happening in order to boost that Bestseller Rank.
Some final thoughts...
In marketing there are very few (if any) magical methods that will see your product fly immediately. That said, if you want the very best advice in one word it would be ‘consistency’.
Becoming a bestseller usually doesn’t happen overnight, but if you get to grips with these basics, you’re going to give yourself the very best foundation from which you can continue to build your strategy.
When it comes to taking the next step, understand that there is some excellent advice out there, but it really does pay to be reading the most up to date information. Amazon is a constantly evolving marketplace and what worked last year might not now.
Good luck! Amazon’s a big marketplace, but with a great book and some fundamental skills under your belt, you can start climbing those Bestseller Ranks quickly.
About the author:
Thomas Buckland specialises in optimising your book or product for the competitive Amazon marketplace. He’s created some excellent free guides on how you can make Amazon work for you. If you have any questions, you can get in touch with him directly at amazonseoconsultant.com.