Amazon Bestseller: Top Ten Tips For Hitting #1 On The Amazon Store

Today I’m excited to introduce Rachel Abbott, independent author of Only The Innocent which has topped the Amazon.co.uk overall charts for the last few weeks.

As I write, the book has spent 36 days in the Top 100 sold overall on Amazon.co.uk, oscillating between #1 and #2, a place I’m sure many of us would love to be! It’s also #1 in Thrillers and British Detectives.

When I first launched Only the Innocent I literally had no idea what the next few months had in store for me. I honestly believed that it all came down to uploading my Word file to Amazon (big mistake), and then waiting for the sales to come rolling in (bigger mistake).

It became clear to me from my early research that :

  • I needed to take more care with my book than just uploading it as a Word file
  • I would actually need to do some marketing
  • There is a seriously massive amount of information on the web to help with all this.

When it comes down to it, though, there are a three key factors that will help you to market your book effectively.

Professionalism

The way in which your book is formatted will be key to how your book is judged by some readers. It is rare that a Word file uploaded without any tweaking will come out as a professional looking book. So spend some time getting this right.

The cover is so important too. I have seen many debates about this – do you judge a book by its cover? Well, hopefully the answer is “no” – but with so many books to choose from, you need something that will attract attention. The decision to buy may be based on the product description or on reviews, but you need to catch the eye of the potential purchaser to start with.

Everything that you do should be about taking a professional approach – even the way that you ask for reviews is important. The reviewer will immediately have a view of you based on your approach.

Think of yourself as a professional, and it will become natural to work in this way.

Preparation

Some of my top tips relate to social media. Don’t do as I did – only start marketing after the book is published. Be prepared for the big day, and build yourself followers and a community of interested people. Consider sending out pre-release copies to reviewers too – having some early reviews could make a big difference.

Visibility

This is the key to it all. Your book needs to be visible. Amazon has loads of ways of making your book visible, and you need to exploit them all as far as you can. One of the best periods for doing this is in the first 30 days after your book is published. A lot of people check out new releases, and you need to increase visibility here. Those pre-release review requests could do it -  if there are some ready to go immediately after launch. This is a time to push your sales as hard as you can. You are looking to get your book linked to others – as in “customers who bought <this book> also bought <your book>”. Think of ways of maximizing that visibility, and build it into your preparation.
These are the underlying principles. What actions can you take that might make a difference?

(1) Prepare a marketing plan

Start this well in advance of launch of your book. A plan will keep you focused. Break your plan into sections : Channels (eg Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords), Social Networking (eg Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Forums), Web presence (eg. Blog, website). You may want to include a PR section, or a face to face section (which I can’t do because I live in Italy).

For each section of your plan, identify the issue, and create a action list. For example, under Amazon the issue was visibility, and my action list included Listmania lists, Author Central, etc.

Give yourself a time limit for each activity on a daily or weekly basis so that you don’t get completely carried away with just one task.

(2) Request reviews

Get yourself well prepared with a list of reviewers. There are a huge number of websites that offer reviews of books, so have the list ready and make some inquiries. Create a professional review request document – it takes a bit of time, but once you’ve done it, it’s always ready to send. It should include an image of your book cover, your book blurb, and details such as genre, number of words, etc. Do this before release, if you can, but if your book’s already been released you can use the opportunity to include any review extracts that seem appropriate, and list where the book can be purchased.

(3) Create a polished product

This is where the professionalism mentioned above comes in. Make sure that your final product looks as if it has come from a professional publishing house.

(4) Write a really good blurb

This is what goes onto Amazon (and elsewhere) and you might upload it at the same time as your book in the first instance. But then make sure you have joined Author Central and go into the US version. There are various options that enable you to edit your blurb so that it looks more professional, such as bold face and italics. So make that look as good as possible, and make sure it includes some of your best reviews – if you have any.

(5) Think carefully about your categories

When I launched Only the Innocent, I just put it in the Thriller category. That’s what it is! But one thing that made a big difference was narrowing those categories down. Look at the subsections in the main categories, and see if your book fits into any of them. Mine is in British Detectives, and as soon as I put it in that category, it showed up in the charts – and then it’s all back to visibility! If it’s in any charts at all, the visibility increases.

(6) Create tags for your book

Some people think the tags on your book are irrelevant – but they’re not! And we’re back to visibility again (now you know why I wanted to talk about it!). Amazon frequently displays “similar” books – and although they could just do this by genre, the evidence suggests that they do this by tags. But think of fairly unique tags, or look at books that you would like to be linked to, and see what their tags are. If their tags apply to your books (and ONLY if they do) add those tags. Then try to encourage people to click to agree with your tags. But no funny stuff, please! I looked at my tags the other day, and people had added tags – the names of their own books.

(7) Use social networking wisely

I have never been a huge Facebook fan, but if you are, then look at how it might help you. For me, Twitter was the way forward. You will find many people who will claim that Twitter doesn’t result in sales. Okay – it may not be responsible for huge volumes of sales, but in the early days you are interested in the ones and the twos. You need to find the right sorts of followers – the ones that follow other authors that write in a similar genre. There are tools like TweetAdder that will help you with this. You name a Twitter account, and it will find all the followers of that person. It will then (over time) automatically follow these people for you, on the basis that a lot will follow back (if you’ve made your Twitter personal info interesting enough).

(8) Get chatting

Use the forums – Goodreads, Amazon – there are plenty of them around that are designed for people who love to read. Set up a thread about your book, and get to know people. I have enjoyed so much the chat with readers that it actually distracts me from writing (which is why, of course, you need a marketing plan with timescales!). Some of them will read your book, and if they like it they will recommend it on other forums too.

(9) Web presence

Think about your own web presence. I have a website which is really aimed at readers, and a blog which I write for other authors. You don’t have to do it this way. You could write about other books in your genre, get guest posts from authors. One author that I know actually writes about cooking, with a recipe once a week. You have to write about something that you love, or you won’t keep doing it.

(10) Which bits hurt?

This is less of a tip, more of a warning. When I reached #1 on Amazon UK, a well known author contacted me and said it was time to develop a thick skin. He said that this is when all the nasty reviews start. Until then, I had only had 4 and 5 star reviews – and found it hard to believe that people would just choose to try undermine the success of an author. But he was right. The scams are relatively easy to spot, because they have normally never written another review. But if you do start to get them, make a decision to read the ones that appear genuine, learn from them and take them in your stride. And ignore the others. Don’t take it personally – they’re not criticising you, they’re commenting on your book.

If you’ve written a book and published it, it’s a massive achievement.  Be very proud, and accept that you can’t please everybody.

Good luck with your writing, and I wish you every success with your marketing.

Rachel Abbott is the author of the #1 bestseller Only the Innocent which is available from Amazon.com and Amazon UK as well as in other formats.  Her blog is designed to help other indie authors through the maze of publishing, including a new series of posts entitled Hitting the #1 spot on Amazon : A Killer Plan or Lady Luck? and her website provides information on her writing.

Top image: Flickr Creative Commons Horizontal Integration

 

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Comments

  1. Ron Tylor says

    What a brilliant piece of advice.
    Relevant for small indie publishers as well as
    authors.

    Thanks for posting.

    ——–

  2. Fresnel Lindor says

    Your piece of advice is wonderful. Brillant! You put more direct tips in that article than some published books on the subject.
    Thanks!

  3. says

    Thanks for all the kind comments, and I’m glad you found it useful. And thanks Tony for searching out the blog – I’m glad that the information helped. I know from experience how hard it is to identify what you should and shouldn’t spend time on – and the reason that I haven’t put it into a book is because that would suggest a level of expertise! I think I have learned a lot, but I don’t have “the answer”. I just hope the suggestions I have made help you get the visibility your books deserve.

  4. says

    Great post ladies!
    I have a couple books out and it’s been a learning process! There’s so much work that goes into putting out your books. It’s not just about publishing them to Amazon and letting it go. Achieving the success every author dreams about requires hard work. Nowadays, an author has to create a brand and get out there even before the book is out, think carefully about who their target readership is, tags, blogs, FB, Twitter . . . and learn how to balance all of this AND continue to write. It’s all a package deal, but if you can do it, the rewards will be that much more sweeter!

    Thanks for the post! Short, sweet, and to the point. Exactly the kick in the a$$ that writers need.

    ;)

  5. says

    What advice would you give to writers in regards to setting a low price for chart position over a higher price for more profit, but lower chart position?

    • says

      Hi
      This is a difficult question, and it’s up to each individual to decide. I launched my book in the UK at £1.99 and US $2.99. It started to sell a few, and I kept it at these prices until I was more visible. Then I dropped the price – theoretically just for January, but as it was rising in the charts I left it at the same price. When it got to number 1 in the UK, I left it for a couple of days, and then I put the price up to £1.99 and $2.99 respectively. It made no difference that I could see. It stayed at number 1 for another 4 weeks in the UK, and actually (although I never reached that position) it certainly increased sales in the US.
      I do think that there is an issue with low pricing. I think that some people won’t buy a book if it’s really cheap on the basis that they think it won’t be very good (which we know is far from the case) and some people will buy a book BECAUSE it’s cheap. If these two balance each other out, you may as well go with a price that brings you the 70% royalty. You can always try it and see what the results are?
      But if you drop the price, make sure you promote it as a ‘special offer’ so that people think they are getting something special.
      I hope that helps – I’m not an expert and have only a small amount of experience to base this on, so it would be great to hear what others think.

  6. says

    Rachel
    This comes at such a good time for me, as my debut will be out May 1st. And along with a deep sense of pride and accomplishment I also have a sever amount of FEAR!! Your points are in line with what I am doing and prepping to do. I hope to have as much success as you have and really love to see Indie’s doing so well. I have this writing community to be embracing and full of help.

    And I think it’s always important to remember we have all read a Best Seller once or twice and thought “Eh”. Not every book can be for every one! Great advice!

    Thanks
    Kelly Rae

  7. says

    Rachel, great summary of the many steps of what an indie author has to do AFTER they get done writing the book. The business model of 5, 10, 20 years ago is no longer true in the digital age.

  8. says

    I have seen many of your posts Rachel and agree with all of them regarding marketing one’s book. My book Wrong Place Wrong Time is based on a true story and since it was self published in June 2012 it has not been out of the top 10 in true accounts and true crime. It is currently #45 in Biographies, #81 in Non Fiction and #668 bestseller in UK! Also currently #23,526 bestseller in USA along with #95 in true crime.

    I work everyday on marketing BLOGS, FACEBOOK, TWITTER ETC as you have suggested and it is paying off.

    I am also wroking on my 2nd book!.

    Keep the great tips coming!

    David P Perlmutter

  9. says

    Thank you Joanna and Rachel for providing the source of helpful tips, the information, and the inspiration. My husband, Neal Fox, and I are returning to children’s books after several years of pursuing his music and film projects. We collaborated on a series of self-published books for multicultural children in the 90s (marketed under the title of the Confetti Company) in partnership with actor Robert Guillaume, who narrated the recordings. So we are back to square one and looking forward to the new journey—with a little help from our new friends. :)

  10. says

    Thank you for this great post! My novel has been out on Amazon since the last weekend. There’s some avenues I have tried, but I’m always looking for ways to hear about authors’ experiences, improve my own marketing and learn about what to expect.

  11. says

    Thanks for all the recent feedback. For some reason, I haven’t been notified of all of them – so just catching up now. And good luck with your books! I can promise you, it will be an exciting time.

    It’s one year this week since I published Only the Innocent, and I am actually having a bit of a birthday bash! I’ve dropped the price to £0.99 on Amazon for a week (starting tomorrow), revamped the website with some music and recipes from the new book, and I’m going to write a series of blog posts on everything that has happened in the last year – what I have learned, what has been brilliant, and what has been a disaster. I hope you will pop along to the blog (http://rachelabbottwriter.wordpress.com) any time later this week from Thursday onwards, and I’d love to know what you think.

    Self-publishing is hard work, but so very rewarding.

    Best wishes

    Rachel

  12. says

    Hi, Rachel. This is great information and I’ll bookmark it for when I have a book coming out. I’ve also sent the link to a friend who has a book launching in a few weeks – thanks!

    My question is how do you get advance reviews? The logistics, not the asking. If you upload your book to Kindle or Smashwords or whatever before the launch, is there a way to keep it private and only let certain people download it with a code? Do you send them a word doc? Or is there another way to format it so they can read before it’s officially available?

    Thanks again, Rachel. And thank you to Joanna for hosting her!

    • says

      Hi Jennifer

      You have a few options, depending on the format your reviewers want. If they want an iPad version and you don’t have an epub file ready to send to them, you could send a PDF.

      If your reviewers use a Kindle, then it depends on how you have created your Kindle file. I always encode the Kindle version myself, so I am able to email reviewers a .mobi file. They all know how to transfer these to their Kindles (very easy).

      If you have uploaded a Word file to KDP, you have the option to download a preview copy. This is a .mobi file, and you can email this to reviewers. You need to warn them that it IS a preview version, because sometimes the start point isn’t set correctly. For example, in my latest book – The Back Road – the preview version opens in the middle of the Table of Contents. I thought this was a huge problem, but the purchased version is fine. I just have to warn reviewers that this might happen.

      I hope that helps!

      Good luck with the book launch

      Rachel

  13. says

    I love your post. It really opened my eyes to steps i personally can use to get to Amazon bestseller. Sometimes i think it might be a dream to achieve this, but with your write i know i can do it.

    Thanks.

  14. says

    Rachel – Thanks for taking your time to write this piece. I’m getting ready to go “on my own” with Amazon, and I’ve bookmarked your article as a reference tool. You really got a book’s worth of information out in a concise, clear from. Thanks again … I’ll be back. John

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