Today I’m excited to share a guest post written by the fabulous Christine Dore! Christine is an editor at a Boston-based publishing house, and she focuses her list on creative nonfiction. We’re lucky to have her on the blog today, sharing some insider tricks that can help your book shoot up the Amazon rankings.
Amazon Tips for Authors – Or: How to Tame the Amazon Beast
In the timeline that is book publishing—and book selling—the ecommerce beast known as Amazon (some view this creature as fuzzy and loveable, others not so much) is a completely new phenomenon. Both Amazon itself and book providers are constantly learning and adjusting how we use this new retail giant to it’s fullest potential. Here are a few tips and tricks to help your title make its way up the Amazon algorithm and into your readers’ e-carts:
1. Preorders. Preorders. Preorders. If you haven’t heard this word yet from your editor, you will. Use any and all means of mass communication—social media, your blog or website, any regular writing gigs you may have—to push preorders of your book. The more people that preorder your book on Amazon, the higher the initial order Amazon will place for your book. This trend trickles down to other outlets as well, as they tend to follow suit to what Amazon is putting their money behind.
2. Encourage pageviews. The more people that look at your listing page, the higher it pops up on searches for your topic or genre. Even asking your family or blog readers to look up your book on Amazon every day for a week will affect its ranking. The Amazon system is run by a computer; it doesn’t know or care who’s looking at it–it just notices that people are and reacts accordingly.
Ah, the track record. One of the must brutal realities of publishing.
An author’s track record is essentially their sales record—how many copies they’ve sold of their books. This number used to be completely inaccessible, and only an author, agent, and publisher would know how many copies a book had really sold. But with the launch of Bookscan in 2001, anyone who subscribes to that service can look up the sales figure for any book and any author. This is both a terrible thing and an excellent thing.
Let’s start with the excellent:
So you’ve published a book, and you worked long and hard to make it incredible, and then you worked even longer and even harder to tell the world that it exists. And hey, people bought it! Lots of people. Now you’re in a very enviable position—you have proven to publishers that you know how to make a book successful and that you’re an author worth investing in. You are golden.
One of my all-time favorite blogs is Zen Habits by Leo Babauta. It’s amazing because it’s different–just look at the main page, and you’re instantly struck by how it looks nothing like anything else on the internet. No ads, no images, no lists of posts, very few links, and no social media icons. It’s just one post on a blank page, with a few links that lead you to years and years of archived posts. It’s quiet in a noisy world. As much as I always tell my authors about the importance of design, this is the perfect example that website design doesn’t have to be cookie cutter–it just has to be impactful.
Lucky for us, the writing on Zen Habits is just as impactful. Leo’s such a master of condensing so much knowledge and inspiration into just a few short sentences. Makes my long-winded self jealous! And I also think his approach to writing as a profession, particularly writing on the internet, is incredible. He went the traditional route for a while, running a blog with ads and writing a book with a traditional publisher, then decided the whole thing just wasn’t jibing with his minimalist values. So he uncopyrighted his blog posts (more on this here), pulled all his ads, and refocused on helping his readers in a more direct way. He moved his business model to one of building value with his readers, so that now they directly support his business by signing up for his great e-courses and buying his ebooks, instead of having third parties, like advertisers, support the business. It’s both a radical idea and a simple idea–not too different from a business model like that of NPR, where the emphasis is on serving the public, and then inspiring the public to support you back.
Feeling stuck in your work? Get the inspiration flowing again with this quick read, which is about my personal sandwich hero, Ari Weinzweig of Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Not only is he an absolute god with a muffuletta sandwich, but he jumped into building a business with only his good sense and solid values about him. (Too many people check those two things at the door when they enter business.) He decided he didn’t want to be the biggest business, or the most profitable business—he just wanted to be the greatest.
At a certain point, anyone in a creative endeavor, including business, has to decide what kind of company/writer/artist/boss/blogger they’re going to be. Creatives can be especially prone to endless comparison, to always wondering what the other guy is doing. Which leads to doing things like the other guy does them. And we all know that conformity is anathema to creativity (and to happiness, which we can’t pretend doesn’t matter at the end of the day).