By Dave Chesson
Selling books can be hard. Sure, marketplaces like Amazon have made it easier than ever to list your books for sale, but grabbing readers’ attention is more difficult than ever. In this article, we’ll look at five strategies you can use to sell more books.
Strategy 1: Select the Right Keywords
When you publish a book on Amazon, you get the opportunity to enter up to seven keywords. It looks something like this…
Many new authors skip this step, but those Kindle Keywords are one of the most important ways to get your book in front of the right readers.
Basically, you choose words and phrases you’d like your book to show up for when people search on Amazon. So, for example, if you’re writing a book on growing a rose garden, you might want your keywords to be ‘rose garden’, ‘roses’, ‘gardening’, and so on.
Luckily, you don’t have to guess what keywords to put into those boxes. You can do some keyword research using the following method:
- Switch your browser to incognito or private mode. This means that your shopping history won’t affect your results.
- Visit Amazon and select ‘Kindle Store’ in the search bar. That way you’ll only get other ebooks in your search.
- Start typing in phrases that describe your book. Amazon’s predictive search will give you suggested searches. These suggested searches are based on phrases that a previous user has typed into Amazon.
- When you see a suggestion you like, write it down.
Now, the only problem here is that you won’t have any data to look at. All you’ll have are suggestions. Sure, you’ll know the phrase has been typed into Amazon, but you won’t know how popular it is. To find that information, you can try:
- Searching for a keyword
- Checking out the books that appear toward the top of the search and try to assess the following:
- The books’ sales rank or Amazon Best Seller Rank (ABSR)
- See if the books at the top are good quality or not
- Does it look like the books target that specific keyword? For example, if you want to target the keyword ‘how to grow a rose garden’, and that’s the exact title of a book, odds are they’re trying to target that keyword.
This won’t give you any exact numbers, but it will nudge you in the right direction.
If you want concrete numbers, you can use software like Publisher Rocket. Software solutions also save you a bunch of time. You can do your keyword research on Rocket in minutes, not hours.
Remember, though, you can’t use certain keywords in those seven Kindle Keyword boxes as they’re against Amazon’s TOS. Here are the ones you should avoid:
- Another author’s name
- Books by other authors
- Sales rank (e.g., “bestselling”)
- Advertisements or promotions (e.g., “free”)
- Anything unrelated to your book
- Phrases related to Amazon’s programs like “Kindle Unlimited” or “KDP Select”
If you follow those rules and take the advice listed above, you’ll be able to get your book in front of ideal readers.
Strategy 2: Make Sure Your Cover is Genre-Specific
The first thing that attracts attention from a shopper is your book cover. The cover will play a huge role in getting potential readers to click through to your sales page, and hopefully, click that big ‘buy’ button.
To do that, you need a cover that fits your genre but still offers something unique.Think about it this way: when shoppers are scrolling through the feed, they will see hundreds of books. They’re looking for a cover that gives a clear example of what the book is about.
A good way to check trends on book covers is to visit your genre’s bestseller list and zoom out until you see fifty books at once. For example, check out this list of best-selling sales and marketing books.
Already, I can see:
- Yellow covers with contrasting titles
- Red covers
- White Covers
- Text-heavy covers without images
Knowing which covers sell well will give you a basis for your audience is expecting to see when they’re shopping. Me, for example, I’m a massive Military Sci-Fi nerd. Most of the books in that genre have a huge, impressive space ship on the front cover.
One thing you do need to be aware of is new releases. If you see a book at the top of the bestseller list with a cover that doesn’t quite resemble the rest, make sure you check the release date. If the book is a recent release, it’s likely had ad money thrown at it. Don’t use that book in your trend-spotting.
Strategy 3: Build a Mailing List
Building an email list of readers is one of the best ways to sell more books in the long-term. And there are plenty of reasons why:
- You have a group of engaged readers who want to hear from you.
- You can communicate with readers and get advice on future writing decisions.
- You can develop your own ARC (advanced reader copy) team.
- You own your email list! That means you can contact readers directly. This differs completely from a platform like a Facebook group, where you’re just borrowing Facebook’s platform. I know people who have used Facebook groups to grow their business and lost everything overnight when their group was shut down for reasons out of their control.
Most of all, though, you can reach your superfans. You know, the highly engaged readers who will be the first to buy your book when it comes out.
You can grow your email list through your author website, or, you can do it through your books– which will be your main way of gaining subscribers. You can turn readers into subscribers by using a lead magnet. A lead magnet is a downloadable resource that readers get in exchange for their contact information. For most authors, a solid lead magnet is a free book. Science Fiction author, Jamie McFarlane has an opt-in to his book titled Junkyard Pirate. The link sends readers to a download page where they can sign up to receive their free copy.
Another example is multi-genre author Chris Fox. Chris has one link on his title page which takes you directly to his website.
When you click to his site, there’s a rotation of three different free books you can sign up for. This giveaway is shown above the fold, which means you don’t have to scroll down to see it.
A lead magnet doesn’t need to be a free book though. It can be several things:
- Prologue or Epilogue
- Character background information
- Location maps
- Side stories
Anything a reader would want to download will make a great lead magnet. You can even create an online course as a lead magnet. I use a free course on Amazon Ads as a lead magnet on my site and it works really well!
Strategy 4: Try Your Hand at Blogging
One thing I’ve always disliked about marketing is it’s often a pay-to-play game. When you stop those monthly payments, your marketing push stops too. Paid advertising is also incredibly time-sensitive and you’ve got to keep monitoring ad-spend (especially on Facebook).
A blog is a long-term strategy and not something that will deliver instant results. Blog content takes a while to rank in search engines, but when it does, it can stay there for a long time. That means you might get thousands of visitors to your blog through search engines every day for articles you wrote months or even years ago.
To have an effective blog, you need to write articles based around specific keywords, like you would with your Kindle keywords. There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to writing a blog; far more than we can cover in this article. If you are interested though, there’s a great guide to starting a blog on the site, Niche Pursuits.
Strategy 5: Put Your Book in More Categories
Did you know you can list your book in up to 10 categories? And, did you know that they can be in any of Amazon’s categories, not just the initial ones they show you?
Sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it?
Well, all you have to do is publish your book and, when it’s live, do the following:
- Visit the Help/Contact Page for Author Central and sign in if you need to
- Look for “Select an issue” on the left-hand side, and then click the option that says “My Books.”
- Click the option that says “Select Details” and choose the “Update Information About a Book” option.
- A few fields will appear, make sure you select “Browse Categories.”
- Then “I want to update my book’s browse categories.”
- Choose “Email” and make sure all of your email info is correct.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to send an email telling Amazon what categories you want your book to be listed under. Here’s a template you can use for that email.
I’d like my book, (TITLE) with ASIN number (ASIN NUMBER) to be added to the following categories:
(PASTE THE FULL CATEGORY STRING HERE)
(PASTE THE FULL CATEGORY STRING HERE)
(PASTE THE FULL CATEGORY STRING HERE)
It may take a few days to process, but you should get a reply confirming your book’s new category listings.
Being an author is all about visibility. Make sure you have a series of effective strategies you can use to get your books in front of readers who’ll purchase them.
Dave Chesson is the creator of Kindlepreneur.com, a website devoted to teaching advanced book Marketing which even Amazon KDP acknowledges as one of the best by telling users to “Gain insight from Kindlepreneur on how you can optimize marketing for your books.” Having worked with such authors as Orson Scott Card, Ted Dekker and more, his tactics help both Fiction and Nonfiction authors of all levels get their books discovered by the right readers.