When it comes to book marketing, I learn half of what I know from my editing and publishing clients. So, when Cathy Turney, author of Laugh Your Way to Real Estate Sales Success told me her book was the #1 ebook sold on Amazon that day, I had to know what she was doing! Cathy put me in touch with Howard VanEs, an expert in both book publishing and book marketing who designed her book, a finalist for a Stevie Award for Best Business Book of the Year and Best Business Ebook of the Year.
Howard graciously agreed to share some of his vast Amazon knowledge with me—and, consequently, you—including how to be an Amazon Bestseller.
LT: Let’s start with why it’s important for a book to be on Amazon.
HV: Amazon is the 10,000 pound gorilla in the room. You can’t ignore them! They are the largest online retailer of books owning 60-70% of the market. The next biggest player is Barnes and Noble with approximately 15% of the market, and all the other platforms like iTunes, Kobo, etc. share the balance. So putting your book on Amazon means you are tapping into the largest single online marketplace for book sales.
Additionally Amazon offers independent authors some powerful marketing tools that simply are not available on any other platform including the KDP giveaway, pay per click advertising, Countdown Deal, Author Central and other programs.
LT: What are keywords and what do authors need to know about choosing Amazon keywords?
HV: Keywords or keyword phrases are words or short phrases that people would use to search for something online. In this case it is your book on Amazon. Keep in mind Amazon is a huge search engine and the way books are often found is when people use keywords to search for books. For example if I want a book about golf equipment, I would put “golf equipment” in the search bar on Amazon and books that contain that keyword will show up. If I want a romantic comedy then I would use that search term to find those types of books.
Amazon tells us that the title, subtitle and description are searchable for keywords. This means that you want to have keywords in these places in order for your book to be found. It doesn’t mean your book will be number one in the keyword search; it does mean it will show up in the search results someplace. Without using the keywords, you book will not show up at all!
How to select good keywords is too lengthy of a subject to cover in this blog, but a good place to start is to ask yourself what terms a person would use to find a book like yours. I also like to look at the top 12 books in a given category and identify words in the title and subtitles that appear on several of those books. You will be allowed 7 keywords for Kindle and 5 for Createspace. You can always change them later on, but pick carefully!
Once you have the keywords, you want to take what you believe to be your strongest 2 or 3 and weave them into the title and subtitle. The art here is making the title sound natural – it should be a good creative descriptive title and contain keywords. For the description, you want to weave in all of the keywords.
LT: What are some of the biggest mistakes authors make on Amazon?
HV: Many authors ignore using keywords in their titles, meaning they have created a title or subtitle that works creatively but have not considered the impact of using keywords and as a result they will lose organic traffic from Amazon. The other thing I see often that detracts from sales is a poorly written book description. This is your big chance to sell potential readers – it has to inspiring and look good too! The most important items for online book sales are first, the title; secondly, the book cover design; and, thirdly, the book description.
LT: What do authors need to know about categorizing their books on Amazon?
HV: When you place your book into the Kindle program you are allowed to select two categories. If you are placing a paperback through Createspace you are allowed to select 1 category. These categories need to be researched well to make sure they are a match for your book’s genre. You also want to make sure that books in the categories you select are selling well. Otherwise your book may just languish without sales. You can check sales by looking at the top 12 books in any category and on average you want to see the Amazon sales ranking under 30,000. This can be found on any book sales page simply by scrolling down to the area that says “Product Details.”
The categories available through KDP (kindle) and Createspace are known as
BISAC categories which stands for Book Industry Standards and Communications. I will let you in on a little secret regarding Kindle categories. Not all categories in the Kindle store are BISAC. Amazon has also created their own categories and sometimes these might make more sense for you then a BISAC category. Usually I can find one BISAC category for a book, but often select a second from a category that Amazon has created. To find the Amazon created categories, search books that are similar to yours and scroll down the page to “Product Details.” At the bottom of that section you will see the categories the book is in. Remember you are only looking at Kindle categories. If one of them makes more sense than the BISAC category then copy the category and send it to Amazon, asking to put your book in that category, and they will!
LT: This is the end of part 1 of What Authors Need to Know About Amazon. Next Monday, Howard will share more of his expertise about marketing books on Amazon.
Howard VanEs is a book marketing expert and President of Let’s Write Books Inc. a company specializing in book design and marketing services for independent authors. Howard is also the author of 20 of his own books, many of which have been or are number one in their respective categories on Amazon. E-mail Howard at firstname.lastname@example.org. Full disclosure: I am a proud affiliate of “Let’s Write Books” and, as such, if you let Howard know I sent you, I may receive an affiliate commission when you work with him (this does not change the fees or come out of your pocket). As you probably know, I am very selective about affiliate programs and only choose a select few that I strongly believe in.