How Writers Can Use Amazon to Sell Books

March 25, 2011

I’m usually a fan of Writer’s Digest Webinars; I was glad I paid for their recent tutorial on e-books and listened in on their free teleconference about Borders. (Can’t find the link — Looks like it’s no longer available online.)

But I didn’t learn much from the session yesterday on using Amazon to sell books. The hosts were super about explaining everything, but most of what they went over I already knew from using Amazon to buy books — or felt like I could’ve figured out by asking Google.

But since I paid $79 for the session, I might as well pass along to you anything that might be helpful, right? (Also gotta give Writer’s Digest customer service points: When they heard via Twitter that I was disappointed, they offered to make it up to me with a free Webinar.)

So here’s how to use Amazon tools to sell your books:

1. Make sure your book is in stock. I feel like this is a no-brainer, but the hosts — a digital marketing manager and an Amazon representative — emphasized that if your book isn’t available when a reader wants to order it, that buyer will order something else.

2. Customize your author profile using Author Central. Amazon allows each author to post your own profile — with photos, a bio, a feed from your blog and more — and then link it to your books. You can’t do this until your book is listed with Amazon (in other words, until it’s published). The idea is to help readers get to know authors, which fosters connection and interactivity between the groups — and sells books, too.

One cool side affect is that because Amazon rules the book world, your author profile is likely to pop up high in Google results when someone searches for you. Of course, you know the importance of looking good on Google because we went over it last week. The more complete you make that author profile, the more likely it is to pop up in Amazon’s search results, too.

3. Check out your BookScan map. Now here’s a tool I didn’t know about. Nielson’s BookScan tells authors how many books you’re selling and where. But Amazon makes the data easy to understand by visualizing those book sales as a heat map of the country. You can find this tool under the sales tab on the back end of your Author Central account.

4. Register your book with Search Inside the Book. This is another way to help Amazon point readers toward your book. If your book is registered, Amazon takes into consideration not only the title and keywords associated with your book, but all the text. That means if a good portion of your book is dedicated to Madagascar (like mine), but Madagascar isn’t in the title or subhead or whatever key components Amazon usually identifies books by, Amazon will be able to suggest it to readers because the book’s 85,000 words are in the search engine, too. It was unclear to me whether an author can register a book at STIB or needs the publisher’s help.

5. Use Amazon Associates to sell your book on your site. It works just like other affiliate programs, except you only earn pennies for each book you sell. It’s easy to use; I used to have an Associates widget in my sidebar, but I removed it because it wasn’t making much money but was taking up valuable blog real estate. This ain’t gonna boost your income, but it might be a smart way to allow your readers to easily purchase the book from your website.

6. When you look at bestseller rankings, consider your category, not the overall rank. Since the rank is relative to other books, looking within your category means more, because it pits you against other authors of, say, historical fiction, rather than all authors. These rankings are updated hourly, so you can analyze them to determine which promotional efforts are most effective.

7. Watch other authors to see what works for them. This has nothing to do with Amazon, and it seems obvious, but it’s something we often overlook. When it comes to promotion, creativity helps, but there’s no need to entirely reinvent the wheel. Instead, find authors who have written books like yours and see how they’re selling those books.

I’d even take this a step further and suggest that you contact those authors and ask what has worked for them, because sometimes it’s not obvious from sniffing around. Social media makes even well-known authors easy to converse with, and you’d be surprised how willing some authors are to share their expertise. Besides, it can’t hurt to ask, right?

I wanted to post this as soon as possible after the Webinar — I am a deadline-loving reporter, after all — so it replaces today’s Writers’ Roundup. Have a great weekend!

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    7 Replies to “How Writers Can Use Amazon to Sell Books”

    • Jillian says:

      Sorry you were disappointed, but thanks for letting us reap the benefits! #3 is an incredible tool, although perhaps some people would rather be blissfully unaware!

    • Peggy Frezon says:

      Thanks Lexi. I wanted to take that seminar but couldn’t, so your points are a great help. My book is already listed on Amazon, 9 mnths before the release date. Seems like a LONG time for it to sit there without anyone being able to get it!

    • alisha says:

      Alexis, one of the reasons I love your blog is that you’re always one step ahead of me. I really wanted to attend that webinar so I’m so glad to get your highlights. Even though I don’t have a book (yet!), this advice is especially useful now for the book I’m helping to promote. Thanks!

      • Alexis Grant says:

        Hey Alisha — That is such a compliment! I’m usually one step ahead of myself, too — ha! I like to learn everything a little in advance, so I’m not scrambling when it comes time to take the next step.

    • Joanna Penn says:

      Damn, I have also bought this seminar – thought I might learn some new stuff (although WD is not usually cutting edge anyway!) Now you’ve blogged the main points and I’m still waiting for the recording!

    • David Lynch says:

      Interesting post – I was intrigued with the “Search Inside” part – after taking a look at the link I can see how that would work with a non-fiction book, but not so sure what the benefit would be to a fiction writer?

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