Book Marketing Tips From Amazon’s Bestselling Self-Published Ebooks Of 2011

Amazon’s list of Top 10 Bestselling books of 2011 was announced last week.

The list combined print and ebook sales and two self-published books made the list. Darcie Chan’s The Mill River Recluse and The Abbey by Chris Culver. I immediately went and bought both of them because I am utterly fixated on how books become bestsellers!

Here are my thoughts on these two books and what we can learn for our own book marketing.

(1) Write popular/commercial fiction.

That isn’t meant to be a judgment. But these books are stories that people can clearly enjoy quickly without too much deep and meaningful thought. People want to be entertained, to escape from their lives for a moment in time. Culver’s in particular is a strange case because the ebook has errors in it which have been pointed out by various reviewers. But he combines a violent crime novel with high body count and some paranormal aspects. Unusually, his protagonist is a Muslim detective which makes his book stand out in the crime genre.

This goes back to my thoughts on what the highest paid authors have in common. Write popular fiction, not literary genius, if you want large sales figures. It’s also backed up by the sales figures of John Locke and Amanda Hocking, neither of whom claim to be prize-winning literary authors. They just want to entertain. You have to decide what you want as an author.

(2) They are both priced at 99c and they are both Kindle only.

I know price is a contentious issue and I personally swing from 99c to $2.99 and then up to $4.99 and back down again as the best price for an ebook. I pay all sorts of prices but certainly as a reader, if I hear of a book/ an author for the first time, it needs to be $2.99 or under. If I read an interesting sample and the book is 99c, I definitely buy it.

An article in the Wall Street Journal points to this strategic pricing as part of Darcie Chan’s success.

(3) Book reviews

If you Google either of these books you will find a huge number of reviews on various blogs. Neither of these authors have a big “platform” in the way we usually talk about it, but it seems like the reviews they received boosted sales significantly.

I also saw a review on Goodreads for Mill River Recluse that pointed to Kindle bargain site Pixel of Ink where it had received some publicity. 99c books are very popular there and you can buy placement for a few hundred dollars.

In the Wall Street Journal article, Chan counts reviews, including Kirkus Indie, as a way to kickstart sales and paid for some as well as soliciting others.

(4) Paid advertising

According to the Wall Street Journal article, Darcie Chan also spent about $1,000 on marketing, buying banner ads on websites and blogs devoted to Kindle readers and a promotional spot on, a book-recommendation site with more than six million members.

Robin Sullivan in her interview about 6 figure indie publishing also talked about Goodreads and it’s a network I intend to be more active in during 2012.


I am personally convinced that book reviews and an accessible price point are the best sales tactics for selling bulk fiction ebooks, providing the book and cover are good enough in the first place.

These two novels seem to prove the point. The Abbey has 507 reviews on Amazon averaging 4.5 stars and Mill River Recluse has 667 reviews averaging 4 stars. I have seen with Pentecost how Amazon’s sales algorithm kicks in when reviews start to pile up so this should be one of any authors main marketing tactics.

So what’s the point in building an author platform?

Your platform helps you get reviews. It also starts the ball rolling with sales as you have an audience ready to buy the book when it’s available. It’s also support for the journey and a great way to network. I wouldn’t do without my online platform and friends but I’ll definitely be focusing on reviews for 2012. I’ll share my research here as always!

What do you think? Are reviews the key to sales success? What sites have you found the best for getting reviews?

On a personal note, my next novel Prophecy is coming out on or before Jan 1st and I’m keen to start the ball rolling with reviews on Amazon and B&N pages as well as personal sites and Goodreads.

So if you enjoyed Pentecost and you would like to be considered for a review copy of Prophecy, please email me directly:

The review copy will only be available in Kindle or PDF format but I really like the stack of books image my cover designer Derek made for me!

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  1. says

    Hi Joanna, thanks for the great post. I’ve just recently signed a deal for my first book with a small press. For my second ms I was thinking about self-publishing as a ebook; just to see if I can find success in the self-publishing craze. I know self-publishing has both good and bad points, and I am still trying to decide what to do. The hardest part is the marketing! I’ve put some good steps foward in that department, but creating an online presence feels near impossible.

  2. Torg says

    I’m not in position to control price on my books but from hanging around writers, the 99 cent price seems like good place to start and get buzz going. Interesting!

  3. says

    I just found your site and read all the comments on your article, which shows how interesting the topic is. I just e-published my first political thriller and I’ll try to put your suggestions to good use. On pricing: Groucho Marx used to say that it didn’t matter that US savings bonds don’t pay a high interest if you have enough of them!


  1. […] Book Marketing Tips From Amazon's Bestselling Self-Published … Amazon's list of Top 10 Bestselling books of 2011 was announced last week. The list combined print and ebook sales and two self-published books made the list. Darcie Chan's The Mill River Recluse and The Abbey by Chris . […]

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