Best Practices For Amazon Ebook Sales

By Carolyn McCray, Author

You have a book.  You want an ebook.  So all you have to do is upload your cover art and paste in your back cover copy and voila, you have an bestseller.

Right? Wrong.

A reader’s experience in the comfort of a bookstore, where they can leisurely pursue multiple books, read the back cover thoughtfully, and browse through the pages is a completely different experience than shopping on-line.

On Amazon (or any on-line bookstore) you are competing for the reader’s attention.   They are distracted by their latest e-mail, how slow the website is loading and what their team is doing in the other window.

You have seconds to capture someone’s attention on any website and this translates to as well. So as a writer or publisher you have to learn how to grab the buyer’s interest and compel them to make the purchase.

How do you do that?

By understanding your book’s page.  Rather than thinking of it as a webpage, I recommend that you think of your book’s page as a ¼ page ad in a glossy magazine. You want to build excitement, hype, and the urge to buy rather than dutifully explaining your product.

Let’s go briefly through a typical page and see how this shift in paradigm (explanation to excitement) works compared to what most publishers and authors do today.

Cover Art

You must present a compelling graphic, which may be different from your hardback or paperback cover.  Bright colors are not just acceptable, but many times get you more traffic/retention of readers and therefore sales.

Do not crowd your graphic.  Put the bare minimum of copy a reader needs to know about your book (title, author, and possibly a very short blurb – but no more than 2-5 words). Even when your cover art is enlarged it is difficult to read much more than that on-line and your cover is better served to visually excite the reader than be cluttered.


Even though this metric is displayed as only a tiny icon under the writer’s name, this metric has a huge impact on sales.  When it comes to book sales, you have to be popular to become popular. In regards to the number of reviews it is pretty obvious you want as many reviews, scored with as many stars, as possible. This “Reviews” metric is a quick indicator to the reader of how seriously they should take your book.  A low number of reviews or a low star rating and the reader may exit your page before scrolling down an inch.

There is also a new ‘like’ feature next to the reviews (it is in beta, but many new titles have the button).  Again, the more ‘likes’ the better.

It is the job of the writer or publisher to drive reviewers (friends, family, fans, Tweeps, bloggers, etc) to your Amazon page and fill these reviews/likes (a bare minimum to have legitimacy is 5 but 10 is a better number to shoot for) as quickly as possible after your title goes live (and especially before any kind of ad campaign).

After the original launch, then you can allow the reviews to come in organically through paying readers, however monitor your page daily.  A single 1 star review can kill sales.

Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought

While you cannot control this horizontal scroll bar filled with other titles directly (Amazon uses an algorithm to place the books in an order of their choosing), you can influence this greatly, especially at launch.

The longer you allow an empty or sparse scroll bar in this section, the lower your sales will be.

On scanning down, if a reader does not see that row filled to capacity, they know that your book has not been purchased very often.  Therefore, you aren’t popular.  Therefore why should they take a chance and buy your title?

There are a couple of ways to accelerate the filling of this bar:

  • Have family/friends/colleagues/fans buy your book during a ‘soft’ launch (pre-advertising, or promoting your book on social media).
  • Price your book at 99 cents (the lowest allowed by Amazon) and drive as much traffic as you can during your ‘soft’ launch window.  Once you have the bar filled you can re-price your book.

Product Description

This is a very poorly understood section of the Amazon page.  Do NOT use this vital section for an actual product description.  Think of this section as the exciting and enticing copy you would load into your ¼ page magazine ad.

There are many ways to go about this, however the matrix below seems to work consistently at driving sales:

First off, note any awards or accomplishments for either the writer or the book itself.  Establish yourself/book as an authority on the subject or prove that it is popular. Keep this BRIEF however.  This initial portion of your “Product Description” should be at most 2-3 sentences.

If you have not won any awards or have not been recommeneded and/or blurbed by a celebrity/authority, do not worry.  It is nice to have that flashy start, but you can easily just begin with the next section.

Put your best 3 quotes/blurbs/reviews for your book (punchy, short, exciting).  Again, each quote, etc should not be longer than a few sentences.

Remember that most people do not scroll down past the “Product Details” to the official reviews section of the page.  So unless you show a prospective reader your reviews here, they may never make it over the ‘jump’ of the “Product Details.”

You want to get your most glowing, punchy, exciting quotes out front.  Don’t hold back.  This is a MAJOR section where buyers abort the purchase funnel.  Therefore this is where you need to really grab their attention. If you don’t excite the reader here, you will quite possibly lose a sale.

After these initial 3 quotes, put a brief style description of your book. Do NOT go into specifics about the book.  You will lose the excitement you just built. Keep your energy up and driving towards a sale.  Remember this is ad copy not a by-the-numbers description or even your typical back cover copy.  This is a sales pitch.

Follow your punchy/pithy/exciting sweeping pitch with 2-3 more glowing reviews (no longer than a sentence or two each) to reconfirm that the book you just described is a popular one. End your book’s “Product Description” with a definitive call to action.  “If you enjoy gardening any time of the year, then ____ is for you! “

Remember, the entire goal for your book’s page is to instill confidence in the buyer that not only is your book a good book (which many others readers have purchased and liked), but that it is the perfect book for them.

Carolyn McCray is a social media and sales consultant to writers and publishing houses alike.   Her own controversial thriller, “30 Pieces of Silver” hit the #1 spot on the Amazon “Men’s Adventure” list, (beating out the likes of Clive Cussler), and is currently selling through at a nearly 1:1 ratio of external clicks to sales.  Carolyn is also the founder of the Indie Book Collective, an organization dedicated to helping writers utilize social media to sell their books.

205 thoughts on “Best Practices For Amazon Ebook Sales

    1. Carolyn McCray

      Glad to help!
      The Indie Book has a lot of great info for writers and we even provide free social media workshops on the Tuesday of every month. Contact us if you are interested 🙂

    2. chris west

      Thanks Carolyn
      I found this via google — though nobody seems to have commented recently, it still seems very relevant to me. I totally rewrote my product description as a result of reading it!
      My book, by the way is ‘the Hillwalker’ by my alter ego Lytchett Maltravers.
      Good luck

  1. Jack W Perry

    Good article. As more people shop for books online (as opposed to in stores), the Amazon page is increasingly important. Build it, manage it and make it compelling.

  2. Suzanne

    Great tips! I recently published my first novel, Mrs. Tuesday’s Departure, on amazon and have been working hard to gather more readers for the book. Your tips are very helpful, I’ve got some changes to make to my page!

    1. Carolyn McCray

      I am so glad to help! Finding, converting browsers into readers and then retaining them is any writer/author’s biggest challenge!

      I hopped on over to your Amazon page (I hope you don’t mind) to check out your novel. Your ranking isn’t bad, but because you are not yet on any lists, it was a little hard to tell your genre.

      I am guessing literary but it could be upscale YA.

      I would recommend you really focus on letting your readers know what to expect when they read the book. I think your sales will be really improved it you follow those tips 🙂

      Also, are you on Twitter? Because social media is a great place to test out copy for your Amazon page… i.e. to find out what really sparks people’s excitement/interest.

      Anyway, thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

  3. Katie

    This is a fantastic article … very concrete suggestions, much better than a lot of the vague stuff I’ve been reading. I am bookmarking this page!

    1. Carolyn McCray

      I am glad you thought so.

      I checked out your page (again, I hope no one minds). You have such great quotes, a few really should be above the jump.

      Also you probably want to squeeze in there somewhere… is this a religious novel? Is it tongue in cheek? Is it literary? Is it light historical fiction?

      If I liked what other books would I be prone to like yours?

      Sometimes you really need to guide the reader by the hand to help them ‘discover’ you 🙂

  4. Kelli

    Hi Carolyn,
    This is sound advice, especially for an author, like me, who is about to publish their first eBook. I’ve read many articles, searching for advice. Your information is the best and most informative by far. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us.

    1. Carolyn McCray

      Ah, Kelli, thanks so much for the kind words. Yes, it is NEVER too early to be developing your marketing campaign for your book. Testing out keywords and copy on your social media site will save you so much time once you launch.

      Best of luck to you!

  5. Evertt Powers

    Self-publishing authors have to do all their own marketing; tough if you have no idea how to do it. Kindle is an exciting opportunity for us. Thanks for these great tips!

    1. Carolyn McCray

      You are very welcome. And yes, in fact we do have an amazing window where we can compete nearly toe-to-toe with bestsellers.

      Optimizing your Amazon page is a great way to really level the playing field!

  6. Ben

    I’m not sure exactly how you did it, but you made the information detailed, accessible and concise all at once. I’ve never seen a better explanation of precisely how to market on Amazon. And while the information was specific to Amazon, the principles you put forth seem to be easily transferable to online marketing in general. Thank you so much for this!

    1. Carolyn McCray

      I am so glad you mentioned that, Ben! Yes, the strategies above work equally well on any digital book sales platform or even on your own website.

      Grabbing a reader’s attention is the priority no matter where a book calls home!

  7. Miranda


    Great article! As a reader I can back up on what you are saying. As a buyer I look at the cover art first, and honestly if it doesn’t grab me, I won’t look at anything else unless someone has suggested the book to me. If it does then I’ll scroll down to the Product Description, the blurbs and reviews really make the decision for me on whether I will consider buying it. A short outline is ok, but if I see reviewers, other authors or publications that have quoted that the book is good then I’ll lean towards buying it as well.

    Plus if it turns out as something I love, I’ll be one of those reviewers that will come back to star it, recommend it and review it.

    1. Carolyn McCray

      I love getting an informed reader’s opinion. I am glad that my article hit home so well for you! In sales it usually does come down to tracking back how you would purchase something, then making sure you are fulfilling that expectation!

  8. Steve Umstead

    Carolyn, excellent article on the importance of the actual Amazon page in one’s “platform” strategy. It’s a small part that maybe not everyone thinks about, but not having a good one is like having dirty windows on a retail store. It may be the first thing, the first impression, a potential customer sees.

    Well said!


    1. Carolyn McCray

      Really well put. There truly are no second, first impressions. However a bad first impression can last forever.

      If you have just one bite at the Amazon apple, let’s make it count!

  9. Jeremy Aldana

    Great Article! I wish I would’ve read it before I published my first one. I’m going to read it several more times, as I approach my next ebook 🙂

    Thanks for helping,


    1. Carolyn McCray

      Fantastic! However I would say if your first book is still on Amazon, there is no time like now to change it.

      In this new digital world, there is no ‘out of print.’

      And any new contact you make (social media or otherwise) sees that ‘old’ book as brand new to them.

      For example I dusted off a book I put out 4 years ago to NO sales (dear goodness, no sales), and optimized the book cover and the Amazon page and it is selling about 100 books a month.

      Never give up on an old title! That back list is going to help your next book too! 🙂

  10. Alison

    I agree that this is the most comprehensive how-to list for Amazon that I have seen. I didn’t realize how important the ratings/reviews were for shoppers. I thought I was supposed to just let those fill in, as you put it, “organically,” but aiming for 5-10 to encourage organic growth makes more sense. Thanks so much!

    1. Carolyn McCray

      You are so welcome!

      Yes, I have seen many a launch fall flat with really low sales numbers because both the ‘other people purchased’ scroll and review slots were empty or sparse.

      I always recommend a ‘soft launch’ to close family and friends/colleagues/social media promotional partners to really make sure your presence is solid and ready before the very demanding public arrives 🙂

  11. JM Array

    Awesome post Carolyn. I have a few questions though:

    I have recently published my first eBook over at It has been like three days now, I have sold exactly…one copy. Funny thing is, I had this book up for two months over at and it got downloaded almost 6,000 times! And the cover was uglier back then.

    So my question is: should I try lowering my price from $2.99 to $.99 or should I leave it at that for now? See, I am waiting on ten book bloggers to review the book in the upcoming weeks, plus I am waiting for two guest blog posts of mine to go live, and I am also waiting on an interview and two giveaways to take place. So should I wait for all of this to happen before I try to change the price? See if I can sell the book for $2.99 or should I lower the price to $.99 already?

    It is also worth mentioning: it is a 28,000 words novella.

    Here is the amazon link:

    Thanks a lot for your time!

        1. Carolyn McCray

          Ah, the conversion from free to paid is a huge one. I know authors that have had over 10,000 free copies downloaded with zero conversion to sale.

          So your experience is not surprising, as hard as it is to hear, you need to count only sales. Your download rate usually won’t translate (unfortunately) into sales.

          In that light, I would drop the price to 99 cents as an introductory price, let all of your promotions hit, get some reviews, hopefully travel up the lists to get some organic sales within Amazon then go up to $2.99. But watch sales, if they drop significantly you may have to go back to 99 cents.

          Also, don’t count on a single promotional window to establish your sales presence. You usually have to go in promotional cycles and inject new titles into the mix to keep your sales growing.

          1. JM Array

            Yeah. I figured since I am a new author and all, maybe $.99 would have to do. But I was just afraid that I am under-valuating my own work. And perhaps it would sell very well at $2.99 if it had the right promotion.

            I guess I am going to have to lower it though.

            Thanks a lot!

  12. C.C. Jackson

    Thanks so much for this article! I found the information so helpful. Especially since I am trying to do this all on my own. I am definitely going to have to revamp my ads.

  13. Briana Pierce

    Very helpful info! I have been pulling my hair out trying to figure out how to get better positioning on Amazon; this definitely gives me a direction to move in.

    Thank you so much; I look forward to reading more of your articles!

    1. Carolyn McCray

      Glad to help. Another trick to help your title…
      If your title has competition such as my 30 Pieces of Silver did (5 books with the same title) always search for your title and click on your link.

      This will help bring your title up to the top of the search window.

      So rather than going directly to your book’s amazon page always go to the search bar, type in your title and access it that way. 🙂

  14. Brian Jeffreys

    Thanks Carolyn. Wow, I never thought of making my Amazon page into magazine copy! My third novel, Glory and Empire, is up on Amazon, so that’s where I’m going to start.

    I learned the hard way that getting those first reviews really helps to tell readers that a good book lives here. Your tips are so very helpful.


    1. Carolyn McCray

      Do you have a book for sale on Amazon? If yes, then you have an Amazon page. If not, you can still use these tips for any other digital sales platform or your own website. 🙂

  15. Linda Acaster

    Followed a link this morning (I’m in the UK) and found this fascinating post. Thank you for so much usable information. I’ve finally managed to get Amazon to link my pbk and ebk pages of “Torc of Moonlight” so as to share the reviews across, but had no idea that bookmarking my own pages would be such an own goal.

    I shall now go back and look at all my pages with a more critical eye. And revisit the tagline for Torc. Who in America knows what the North York Moors is? Yeah, right… Second own goal.

    1. Carolyn McCray

      Thanks so much Linda for finding the article and then taking the time to comment! I checked out your Amazon page.

      I liked the cover, very intriguing without being ‘on the nose.’

      However, as you noted, your Product Description is a little dry and too info filled. This section is where you want to build EXCITEMENT 🙂

      Also you have some great quotes, but I would pick 5 star only and you really should give credit to who provided them. Right now they just kind of float there like you made them up rather than being actual reviews 🙂

      Everyone needs to remember that someone browsing (which really means ‘scanning in 5 seconds) your book, wants to know if they should BUY your book.

      It is up to us to let them know, unabashedly, YES they should 🙂 LOL

      1. Linda Acaster

        Crickey, Carolyn, thanks for taking the time to respond personally when I’m a day late. I do appreciate your input and shall redraw all my Amazon pages along your suggestions. And I’ll be taking an evening off to delve into the back posts of the IBC blog.

        Thanks to Digital Book World for hosting Carolyn!

    1. Carolyn McCray

      I am so glad I could help. If you aren’t already, you should check out the Indie Book Collective. We give out tons of free information like this on our Twitter stream, FB, blog and radio show. You really don’t have to go into indie publishing alone anymore 🙂

  16. Cheryl Shireman


    Great article.

    I am a newbie to Indie publishing, but my first novel, Life is But a Dream, is selling pretty well.
    Despite the sales, intuitively, I knew my book page was lacking – too much text and it doesn’t not convey the excitement of the book. I also just released another title yesterday (You Don’t Need a Prince: A Letter to my Daughter).

    I think the problem is we writers feel all of our work is done once the book is finished. “Whew! Cut and paste the back cover of the book onto the product description page and move on to the next project.” Unfortunately, without a marketing department behind us, we Indie authors have to be thinking more strategically and have to get all of that hard work into the hands of the reader.

    After reading this article, I am going to do a makeover on both pages. Thank you so much!

    Great info! Really appreciated. 🙂

    1. Carolyn McCray

      I am so glad you found the article informative! That was my goal!

      And yes, I checked out your page 🙂

      It feels like you know what you need to do to jazz that puppy up.

      Also everyone, remember if you have a second book, to give a nice “Oh, by the way, I also have this incredible novel_____,” and then a REASON why they should go check it out 🙂

      I would also like to say that I do not want to take anything away from anyone’s current success, but that we all need to recalibrate in our minds our sales potential.

      Unless our royalties are paying the rent on an upscale home, we could always be doing better.

      There is no reason we cannot all strive for thousands of books sold per month with royalties in the tens of thousands.

      This truly is a golden moment for digital publishing and we should all seize it as best we can 🙂

      1. Cheryl Shireman

        Yes – you are absolutely right about us raising our expectations!

        When I said my sales are doing relatively well, I meant for a first novel that has been for sale for less than two months. My rankings jumped to 2697 during that time (Kindle edition) and I was absolutely thrilled. LOL

        As I hone my marketing skills, I try to share what I learn with others. That is what I LOVE about your article – your willingness to do the same.

        Right now, I am trying to find my way and the entire process fascinates me. It is nothing short of a revolution! I just wrote an article for Independent Publisher comparing these times to the westward expansion. I really do believe we are pioneers and there is something of a gold rush mentality out there. Publishing – the Wild Wild West!

        For the first time in modern publishing, the writer has a huge amount of power in his/her hands. We have a voice not only in the product, but in the product placement and promotion. Very exciting times!

        And now I am going to go find you on twitter so I can keep learning from you!

        Thanks so much for your willingness to share.

    1. Carolyn McCray

      The problem with B&N (hopefully they are listening in today) is that while they have a Sales Rank, they have no lists. So even if you pop high, it does not put you in any position to capitalize off of it. Unlike Amazon whose lists break you out by genre and give you great exposure, generating internal sales from Amazon itself.

      As to your page, I am sure you know what I recommend 🙂 And you have GREAT quotes in the review section. Short and sweet yet punchy. Get those puppies above the ‘jump,’ so that way more people see them 🙂

  17. Sharon/Assistant Thief


    As always, great advice and very motivating. As Daniel said, you are a “volcano of information.”

    I’m a little late to the party and since I don’t directly control Neil’s pages, had no idea that he could be formatting his pages differently. . . or that he might need to be.

    At the moment, he is readying his debut novel Thick as Thieves (Neil Low) for ebook publishing. I’m pushing him hard to get it done as I see a window of opportunity. He is a little slow in adopting new technology in any manner–but now he’s got me to jump in and help him out a little. My resources and access are limited, but I am scrappy and can be quite resourceful with what I’ve got and very insistent on getting more when I need it!

    Of course, he is out promoting book #3 in the Alan Stewart Mystery Series, Unreasonable Persuasion and finishing up book #4 Unholy Alliance which is scheduled to release in the fall (2011).

    I think it is important for authors to remember that as they develop their brand, they need to go back to original listings and revamp/improve them–where they are today is hopefully a lot different from when they first began.

    Love listening to the IBC radio program!


    1. Carolyn McCray

      No worries. At the Indie Book Collective we live by the scrappy code.

      Yes, Neil’s page needs to be re-worked, but you already knew that.

      But besides freshing up the copy etc, you really want to get him more reviews.

      For everyone, no matter if you are a bestseller or your first week on Amazon, you really need to have at least 5 reviews up. MINIMUM 🙂

      Unless you are a household name, you need those reviews to gain reader confidence 🙂

      It truly is the difference between a page bounce and a sale!

  18. Zvezdana Rashkovich

    I feel so lucky to have stopped by and read your article. I don’t feel so lost and confused anymore.
    Your tips on how it all works are right on time for me.
    I recently self published my novel ‘Dubai Wives’ and have been wrestling with the how and what to do about
    getting it on Kindle etc.
    This is the only advice of the sort that I have come upon so far. I only regret not knowing this before..never too late right?
    Thanks Carolyn:)

    1. Carolyn McCray

      I am super glad the article helped. I would also recommend you check out the Indie Book Collective where I contribute a bunch of free advice through Twitter, FB, and our weekly radio show on Blog Talk Radio (Tues 4:30pm PST).

      There is no reason for any of us to struggle alone.

      And yes, the sooner you can get your Kindle version up, the sooner you can really market your book and work on building your royalty base.

      With that said, you can still optimize your Amazon page for your paperback. All of the elements are the same whether we are talking hardback, paperback or digital copy.

      No matter the format, you still have those few seconds to hook a reader 🙂

  19. Rachel Thompson

    This is SUCH helpful information! Most author’s ebook sites definitely don’t read like this and I’m sure lots of people who read this article are now heading back over to their Amazon site to change their info. As they should. Hopefully it will result in increased sales of their currennt book or at least help them market future books.

    Ebooks are such a growing trend. Do you think that most authors will embrace this type of marketing information and jump on board quickly? Or do you think this change is too scary for many authors? The industry is so fluid right now…it’s hard to keep up!

    Thanks. Great article.

    1. Carolyn McCray

      Thanks so much for your kind words. Yes, I hope this article helped everyone think about their Amazon page in a whole new light and encouraged them to really embrace their book’s marketability 🙂

  20. David Robinson

    Hi Carolyn

    Great piece and timely advice, but I have one basic problem. Getting reviews.

    I recently gave away all three of my novels as part of a promo on Smashwords for a week, but for all the 112 downloads, I haven’t had a single review. They’re also on Kindle and customer commetns would be great, but short of begging for them, how do I get them?

    1. Carolyn McCray

      Ah, free reads. That is such a controversial subject in the digital age.

      There are a time and place for free reads, but they must have managed expectations.

      “Here’s a free read and I hope you review it,” simply doesn’t work.

      I know from personal experience. I gave away over 1,000 copies in December of my mystery “Plain Jane.” I received 2, count them 2 reviews and those 2 were only because I knew their Twitter handles and prompted them.

      However, there is a much better way. I am sure this is an entire article in and of itself, but the overview is to use you social media platforms and ask for BETA reviews if it is a new book (reviews obtained before launch). I especially like to do this and say ‘if you meet the deadline and your review is strong enough, it may end up in the eBook.’

      This does 3 things:
      1. Motivates everyone to actually read the book rather than let it sit on their eReader
      2. It encourages reviews overall
      3. For those motivated it gets their review in ON TIME (huge)

      Even after launch I do something very similar. I put out a call for reviews and give out about 20-50 free books in pulses, with the same caveat (with digital books, you can update your copy as often as you like and include better and better quotes as you get them).

      Another way to get reviews is to cross promote with other authors. I review your book, you review my book kind of thing.

      These techniques are tried and true and will result in far greater review numbers 🙂

      You can also cull from the good ones quotes to use in your “Product Description” ad 🙂

      1. David Robinson

        Thanks, Carolyn, that advice is brilliant.

        I’ve been a writer since I can’t remember when, but these days I find I have to be a salesman too :(.

        I have enough Twitter friends so I’ll try it out.

        Thanks again.

        1. Carolyn McCray

          No worries.

          On a side note, I hopped over to your website but could not easily find your social media contacts and on a “people find” search on twitter you did not come up easily.

          You definitely want anyone looking to connect with you to have super easy access 🙂

  21. David Robinson

    You internet people are bigger slave drivers than the missus :'(

    Seriously, Carolyn, the website is under reconstruction when I can fit it in between illness, ex-employers acting up, writing new novels and serials and generally working mroe hours now that I’ve retired than I ever did at work.

    If all goes according to plan I should be able to take a day off by Easter … 2015

    Thanks once again for the pointers.

    1. Carolyn McCray

      Yes, I have been known to have a whip in one hand while I type with the other 🙂 LOL

      I completely understand being time-challenged, it is just that social media is such a huge resource to gain and retain readers that you might want it inch it up the priority list 🙂

      Wishing you some leisure time in the near future (possible 2016) 🙂

  22. Dean from Australia

    A wonderfully insightful and prescient article given that I have really ramped up the focus on my own novel as a digital work on Amazon. I intend reviewing my own page at Amazon based on your guidelines.

    1. Carolyn McCray

      Thanks. I was about to ask for it 🙂 #greatminds

      You have a good range of reviews. I think if you are a little more sweeping and vaulting with your copy it will encourage more sales. And definitely bring some of those great quotes above the ‘jump.’

      Also, on a side note I am a little worried about your cover. I love the pop of color of the flowers on the beach but the text is really washed out. I had a hard time understanding the title.

      ANY hesitation in a potential reader can spell doom for sales.

      I strongly recommend you redo the text (or at least the title) and make it more readable right off the bat.

      Otherwise, you should be on your way 🙂

  23. Annetta Ribken

    Excellent article, and I can see I have some work to do. This is a must-read for anyone who has or is contemplating publishing on Amazon. Thank you so much for sharing!

        1. Carolyn McCray

          I love the fact you have a non-traditional book out. With that said, it is a non-traditional book so you are going to have a harder time getting traction which means your Amazon page needs to guide the reader towards a sale with an even firmer hand 🙂

          Upon a quick glance of your page…
          First off your cover art is a little hard to understand. I think it is a melted candle, but I was not able to immediately link that image with what it had to do with the title.

          The dark writing on the cover is really difficult to read and felt like more a distraction than enhancing my understanding of your work. Even your name was lost a bit at the bottom.

          Onward to your PD section…
          1. Most non-social media people do not know what flash fiction is. You might want to make the description a bit more accessible and fun. Love the second line, it is funny, but I am not sure if you can lead with it.

          2. You need short, pithy quotes to help build a picture of your novel in broad strokes.

          3. I seldom talk much about the author. People just don’t really care. If you want it, I would limit to one line that is driving excitement and interest.

          I feel you really need a ‘if you like this book… you will love “Not Nice”‘ type of thing. You really need to ground the reader in what they should not just expect from the book but enjoy as well. 🙂

          You might also want to look at your price point. I am guessing your word count is fairly low (based on your file size) and to get a foothold in the market you might want to lower it to 99 cents which many more people are willing to risk on a new and experimental work 🙂

          Hope this helps 🙂

          1. Annetta Ribken

            Excellent, thank you! You’ve given me a lot to think about and I look forward to seeing what magic I can make happen by making some changes.

            Very much appreciated 🙂

            1. Carolyn McCray

              So much better! Can you feel it? It flows so much more smoothly.

              I would simply ditch any talk about how difficult or challenging flash fiction is. It implies it might also be difficult to read which is the last thing you want.

              I would emphasize how easy yet satisfying it is to read. Also, you really need to credit the quotes. Right now it feels like you just kind of made them up 😉

              I would also ditch the ‘don’t think you like flash fiction.’ You never want to reinforce someone’s bias.

              Keep it positive (and check for typos) and you should notice a significant change in your click:sales ratio!

  24. Dean from Australia

    @Carolyn – I’m glad you commented about the cover. My publisher and I are about to relaunch the digital edition of the book with completely new cover art which addresses the very concern you voiced. We’re really excited by this re-design and we think it will help alot.

    Thank you for your valuable advice! 🙂

  25. Julie D.

    Carolyn, this was great. Question, though. I liked the idea of putting quotes from reviews, etc. below product description. If my publisher set up the page when the book went live, is there a way I can add these myself, or do I need to go through him? My book has been out since May 2010, but it might be a nice addition, if it makes sense at this stage.

    Thanks again for the information. Very helpful.

    Author, TESTAROSSA
    in paperback and ebook

    1. Carolyn McCray

      First off, it makes sense at ANY stage. Remember, unless you are Stephen King and have huge name recognition, your book could be out for 10 years, but if someone finds you today, it is new to them 😉

      I doubt the publisher will give you the links to go in and change it yourself since you could in theory blow up the world… Ok, maybe not that bad, but you could violate TOS or something under their banner.

      So usually I recommend that you approach your publisher nicely and say that you have learned some things about optimizing your Amazon page and could they please change out your “Product Description.”

      I would have it pre-written in the format I discuss in the article.

      You definitely want to get those wonderful sharp, marketable quotes you have after the jump up and into that PD section!

      From there, with your description that they can just cut and paste, it should be a simple thing for your publisher to post it to your Amazon page 🙂

      Also, nearly a year out you probably would like more in the 40-70 review range. See other comments above where I talk about wrangling reviews 🙂

  26. B.C. Young

    Good suggestions. Makes me wish my friends and family were a little more supportive in my efforts. Even with repeated reminders, they have not written any reviews!

    1. Carolyn McCray

      Family and friends are ALWAYS the last to review and to be quite honest you don’t want them to review.

      Why? Because they SOUND like family and friend reviews. I always recommend you hit them up, because every once and a while you get a good one, but my strong preference is social media.

      It is really where social media shines.

      See comments above where I go more in depth about getting reviews, but developing a network of fans, cross promoting authors, and blog reviewers should be everyone’s top priority.

      Also if you anyone wants to hear more about this, I do host a weekly radio show on Blog Talk Radio: The Indie Book Collective – Teaching Writers How To Use Social Media To Sell Books. It is every Tues at 4:30pm PST plus you can find it on iTunes for all the archives 😉

      This is all we talk about 🙂 #ok #fine #sometimesHawaii5Otoo 🙂

    1. Carolyn McCray

      LOL! No worries! I won’t!

      I subscribe to these comments so even if you update your page in a few days or week, just post the link and I will try to hop over when able and give that mini-critique then 🙂

      The same goes for anyone else. Just hit me up in the comments and I will try to get to you even if you are reading this in May 🙂

  27. Belinda Kroll

    Hi Carolyn! Great article! I’ve published a couple of books on Amazon, and I’m in the process of rewriting one of my books that I’ll release under a new title. That’s the best part of eBooks… you can always do them over if they’re not selling as well as you would like!

    I’m curious to know your critique of my author page ( I’ve a;ready made some of the changes to my Haunting Miss Trentwood product page which should go into effect in a couple of days. I added a line about how if you love Amanda Quick, you’ll love this book, and added another “above the jump” review.

    Anything else I should do?

    1. Carolyn McCray


      First of all what a beautiful cover. However, to me it is not reading “Victorian” immediately. It feels a little too photo-real for that.

      I definitely got romance and a wistful emotion from it, however I would not have nailed it as Victorian. Even just doing a Gaussian blur might help take away from the photo-real (and hence more modern) feel to it.

      As to the changes you suggested, I completely agree and actually would add even more reviews than that.

      My advice is to allow your reviews to do as much of the ‘description’ as possible. And not all of it in one bite.

      Each review should fit like a jig-saw with the others to paint the whole picture.

      i.e. One focuses on the Victorian era beauty of the prose. Another on your poor heroine’s dilemma, and yet another regarding the dark stranger.

      The less YOU have to explain your story in the overview, the better.

      While your overview is fairly short, it is info heavy. I aim to evoke more than explain here. I want the reader wrapped up in the milieu rather than the minutia 🙂

      Again, there is nothing wrong with your summary. It is clear and tells me what the book is about, but did it EXCITE me? No, not necessarily.

      Also you might want to look at the above comments on reviews. 6 months out you probably want another 9 or so reviews. Plus there are no reviews within the last 2 months. If someone is actually going to go down to the reviews section, they tend to notice things like that.

      A kind of… you might have BEEN popular but now… not so much.

      Everyone should strive to get at least 2-3 reviews a month to keep that queue fresh and current 🙂

      And a last note, your price point can be a bit awkward. At $1.99 you lose the appeal of that ‘under’ a dollar impulse buy yet are still at that income-challenged 35% royalty level.

      Since you have multiple books, I strongly recommend you go up to 2.99 on this novel since you have another at 99 cents. The strategy is to always have a 99 cent title so that people who are a little sketchy about your writing can dive in at a super cheap price yet have others priced at an income generating point.

      Hope this helped 🙂

  28. Anne Stormont (@writeanne)

    This is such good, clear, succinct advice. Thanks, Carolyn. I put my book ‘Change of Life’ into e-format on and .com in January (it was out as a paperback for a year before that). But I’m a complete novice at promotion. Your wisdom and insight as t=regards this process is so valuable. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Carolyn McCray

      Thanks so much for commenting.
      When I went to your Amazon page, several things struck me.

      First off, your cover is a little confusing. On first glance it felt like a children’s novel. From the description below, it feels like you deal with far more adult matter than that so you might want to take a look at it.

      Also your PD is very in-depth. Trust me, no one can write a good synopsis. They all kind of suck the life out of the story. I would really recommend you implement the techniques I outlined in the article.

      You have told a story, now excite me about it. Forget the details, what is at the CORE of your story. What feeling do you want your book to evoke? Talk about that rather than a series of plot points 🙂

      Also, you have no reviews. Darlin’ you’ve got to hit up your homies on Twitter/FB/Family/Friends and get some up there.

      It is hard enough out there for a novelist, but with no reviews? It is hard to build reader confidence without them 🙂

      You might want to even track down some of the people who have commented and are hungry for reviews and set up a review swap 🙂

      Also on Twitter @indiebookIBC we have listed according to genre. That is also another great place to find authors of your genre to cross-promote with and review swap 🙂

      Best of luck!

    1. Carolyn McCray

      First off I love the title. With that said, your Amazon page did not hold up for me.

      The cover art feels too photo-real. While we all use Photoshop to create our artwork, we really try not to make it look like we didn’t.

      Remember cover art is your first hurdle. If it does not look as sleek and professional as a mid-lister, you already have a strike against you. And that may be the only strike a new reader allows you.

      Also the font is too thin to read easily and gets lost in the flames.

      I would strongly recommend you reimagine your cover art. Your title is so evocative. I would recommend a more subtle title to really capture the essence of the story.

      From the article, you probably have figured out what I am going to say about the PD. Way too much description/plot points. You need to sell the reader on the essence of your story, not the how and whys of it.

      I would recommend you use 3 quotes off the top, a BRIEF overview that may not even have character names in it and follow that up with 3 quotes, a call to action, and a push to another title or website.

      Also, obviously you need to get way more reviews. Social media is really the best at that, but you might want to peruse my other comments for other tips on getting reviews for your book 🙂

      Hope this was helpful 🙂

        1. Carolyn McCray

          Erik…. No, no, no! You misunderstood me. I LOVE the title. Keep the title. Rework the cover art so that it is as evocative and beautiful as the title 🙂

          If you do use an actual dragon on the cover I would fade it into the background like texture or a light emboss. Something subtle yet powerful 🙂

  29. Ann Charles


    I love IBC, love your article here, love the IBC blog tour. (I’m overflowing with love, huh? Ha!) Beta reads are a definite for me. You have some excellent ideas and advice here. Thanks for writing the article and answering the comments so thoroughly with more helpful answers. Thank you for all of your hard work to help promote indie authors and for being so willing to share your knowledge.

    Ann Charles

    1. Carolyn McCray

      Ah! Thank you, Ann! And just know that the Indie Book Collective loves you right back!

      If you guys want to see some great cover art, a well rounded page, or read an award-winning novel, check out Ann’s “Nearly Departed in Deadwood!”

      Plus she is one of the nicest people you will ever meet 🙂

    1. Carolyn McCray

      Great. You didn’t ask so I don’t know if you want a mini-critique of your Amazon page. Just let me know and I will if you like 🙂 And thanks of course for the kind words 🙂

      1. JL Oakley

        Actually, that would be great to get some eyes on it. I’m also trying to figure out how I can get back in and move my reviews up to the PD. (I couldn’t get into any place where I can make a change) I’ve been on a learning curve for a couple of months.

        Been reading all the comments here. Very informative.

        1. Carolyn McCray

          I am so glad you are getting a lot out of the article and the aftermath 🙂

          For your page, I would say your PD section needs some work.

          Start off with your best quote.

          Fine-tune your overview. This really should be as sweeping and intoxicating as possible. Readers really do not care about the details at this point (even character names, it seems to confuse them or think too hard 🙂

          Them finish up with more quotes, a call to action, and drive to newsletter/website.

          If you have other titles, mention them at the end as well.

          Also, you clearly need more reviews. See the other comments I have left on how to effectively do so 🙂

          1. JL Oakley

            Thanks so much your help. I guess I have to ask info Author Central about making changes or do I go to my program and insert changes (that would be Kindle Platform where the book is now –book I hope will be coming soon)

        1. Carolyn McCray

          First off your covers are STUNNING. I just used you as example to a client the other day regarding a well branded series of books, yet each standing on their own.

          My recommendations to you would be to move2-3 of your most powerful quote to the very top. Your copy is a bit info dense, however very well written and is sweeping enough I think it works.

          After the description, go into more quotes.

          Finish up with a call to action (if you liked such and such books or talk about the feeling a reader gets when reading your work, anything to urge them to buy NOW) and end with a place for them to go for more info.

          I am also toying with adding an enticement phase. You know like, join my newsletter and enter to win a $10 Amazon gift card each month, kind of thing. In this way you might capture even the looky-loos.

          It is standard practice for high volume blogs. Always a call to action then enticement. Interesting to see if it will work on the Amazon page.

          That said, overall, your page looks great, it just needs some minor adjustments to really optimize that puppy.

          Again, thanks so much for commenting and offering up your pages for critique 🙂

          1. Laurin Wittig


            Thanks for looking at my Amazon pages! I’ll take your advice and make a few changes, see if I can come up with a good call to action.

            Thanks, too, for your comments about my covers. I love them but sometimes worry that they are so different from everything else that’s out there that they might put someone off. On the other hand, they stand out because they are so different so I don’t worry too much. 🙂 My publisher never, ever, branded me so that was job one when coming up with the new covers and I lucked into a great young graphic artist who took my idea and ran with it. Joe Konrath gets some credit for being very specific about what makes a good cover and I followed his advice as closely as possible.

            1. Carolyn McCray

              Yes, the only other thing I would recommend is at the end of your PD, you put a bit about your other titles. I find it helps reinforce the synergy amongst titles.

              You have a great presence up in the “Other people have purchased” but surprisingly people’s eyes scan over this and do not settle on any one title.

              And again, great job!

  30. Nicole Galland

    What an excellent article, Carolyn! As you know (since we were on the SXSW panel together) I am terrified of dealing with all of this stuff, and it feels INFINITELY friendlier and more manageable having your clear, cheerful, concrete explanations. This is what IBC does best: makes the scary seem less scary to those of us who are promotionally-challenged 😉

    I’m about to go pester my editor with ALL of these suggestions. I know the IBC is your heart and soul, but WOW I wish you were in charge of marketing and PR at HarperCollins!

    Nicole Galland

    1. Carolyn McCray

      Thanks so much for the props!

      And have Harper give me a call 🙂 LOL

      No, seriously though that is the great thing about all of this. Everyone and anyone in publishing can use it to their advantage. From the big guys through to the medium sized house all the way down to the indie author.

      Thank you for stating my mission so eloquently. I shall now steal it and use it forever 🙂

  31. Edward G. Talbot

    Some great ideas, Carolyn. I definitely think the reviews are important. One thing to note is that it’s sometimes easier said then done. I have only two reviews for New World Orders despite a reasonable size push (and I have about the number of sales you’d expect, not many). It’s all the more odd because I released the book as a free audiobook a couple years ago and got about 40 reviews on Itunes and at, almost all good reviews. Hundreds of the listeners follow me on twitter and facebook. And yet, when I put out a call for reviews, including offering a free copy to anyone who listened to the podcast (asking for but not requiring a review), I got exactly one out of it.

    I’m convinced that letting two years go by after the podcast before putting out new work was a huge mistake. Not that this should come as news, but I didn’t think it would drop off entirely. So, the plan is to put out a podcast of my thriller half-novel that is also available in ebook. And I have another thriller novel ready to release within the next 2-4 months, after I’ve started to rebuild the listener base.

    1. Carolyn McCray

      That is not an unusual problem. Audio listeners are far better at reviewing than readers are. I know others that have found the same problem gaining traction across platforms. You are not alone in this.

      You might want to scan the previous comments for suggestions on reviewers. Social media is usually your best bet, but you do need to build a large thriving community to get them.

      The @indiebookIBC twitter page has lists based on genre. Follow those in your genre and reach out to see if anyone wishes to do some review swaps. It is a great way to build a review base. Also blog tours work very well for this as well 🙂

      1. Edward G. Talbot

        Thanks, Carolyn. I’ve got a bunch of copies out to reviewers, with requests in to a few others I haven’t heard back from. Did a ten book giveaway on LibraryThing just last week, so that may pay dividends too. For the next book, I may try to do what you suggest and do more things to try to get reviews pre-launch. I have done several reviews for authors like Konrath and Blake Crouch where they sent me a copy a few weeks before release with the request to *try* to read it before launch.

        I don’t really like the concept of review swaps, as there’s too much implied pressure. My policy is to never leave a bad review, so I just don’t leave a review if I don’t think it’s at least upper 3 star range. That’s not to say I’ve never done a review of a book/audiobook where the author has done a review for me, but it’s happened organically, not by agreeing on a swap. In any case, I do know it works for some people.

        Thanks so much for your advice, and congrats on 30 pieces of silver!

    2. Carolyn McCray

      That is not an unusual problem. Audio listeners are far better at reviewing than readers are. I know others that have found the same problem gaining traction across platforms. You are not alone in this.

      You can definitely build up the listener base, I am just not sure if it will translate into book reviews though. You will have to see the percentage conversion.

      You might want to scan the previous comments for suggestions on book reviewers. Social media is usually your best bet, but you do need to build a large thriving community to get them.

      The @indiebookIBC twitter page has lists based on genre. Follow those in your genre and reach out to see if anyone wishes to do some review swaps. It is a great way to build a review base. Also blog tours work very well for this as well 🙂

  32. Jason Samuelson

    Would have been FAR more useful if you actually directed us to an example of what you recommend. Or made one up for your article. A picture … OR AN EXAMPLE … is worth more than a thousand words of explanation of what you should have illustrated.

  33. kate harper

    Not to be an obstructionist, but as a frequent buyer of amazon ebooks, I actually do the opposite of many of the things you recommend. I think the description should tell me what the book is about and I don’t want to read about people’s awards. I rely heavily on reviews before I purchase anything. I can’t believe I am not the only person who does this. Perhaps someone should do a study. Amazon reviews are critical for people.

    1. Edward G. Talbot

      Y’know, I missed that in the original post, but I have to agree about the description. Now let me say two things. First is that I loved Carolyn’s book and gave it a strong four star review, approaching five. Second is that I would never buy a book based on that description. If I didn’t see the review on Thrillers Rock Twitter and didn’t see Carolyn’s tweets, I would never have bought it. I don’t care that some reviewer thinks a book is “a thrill ride” or whatever, I want to know what it’s about. With my novel, I gave a description and then two blurbs from other authors. I would consider moving those blurbs first and putting the description right afterwards, that might work.

      That said, I’m not going to argue with Carolyn’s success. And I’m not going to assume that my feelings about what makes me by a book are representative of most readers. I honestly don’t know. But my gut tells me that the description needs to have 2-4 paragraphs that summarize the book. It certainly shouldn’t be a dry outline type thing, this is where you duplicate the back cover of the book. I just took a glance at the top ten fiction ebooks on the kindle store. Every single one has a meaningful product description that explains what the book is about. The ones from traditional publishers have an “Amazon Review”, and it’s sort of written in review format, but they all summarize the plot in addition to saying how great it is.

      1. Carolyn McCray

        Also remember that the vast majority of those titles have some form of significant advertising budget going for them. They can afford the more standard 10:1 ratio that the traditional Amazon page generates.

        With my experience, books are moving towards a movie-type model. When do you want a detailed overview of a movie? That’s is what a trailer is for. And don’t we usually hate when the trailer gives away too much.

        Everyone’s viewpoint is valid. There are definitely some people who are not going to buy with a more ad oriented Amazon page. However, until my sales patterns change significantly, I am not going to go back to a 10:1 click to sales ratio 🙂

        Also out of thousands upon thousands of copies sold, my return rate is less than 1 percent which is again lower than the industry 3-5% therefore I think we can assume that no one feels like they were sold ‘a bill of goods’ that did not match up with the book itself.

        I can also say that the single largest drop in click to sales ratio came when I finally took down the more standard 2-4 paragraph description. I was sitting at 7:1 for a long time and I kept tinkering and tinkering, changing every other aspect (many times worsening my click:sales ratio). It wasn’t until I took the plunge and went from a 2-4 paragraph description to a 4 line overview that I dropped immediately down to the 3:1 ratio.

        I have seen that effect over and over again with dozens of books. Even keeping names in the overview will usually worsen your click:sales ratio.

        With that said, any author would be crazy to not understand and appreciate the more thoughtful readers such as yourselves. This is why I always recommend every author do blog tours and get as many reviews as possible to make sure that they service every segment of their reader population.

        For my Amazon page though? I cater to the masses 🙂

    2. Carolyn McCray

      Of course you have a valid reader’s experience 🙂
      You seem to be a very thoughtful invested reader whose on-line experience is very similar to their bookstore experience.

      You however appear to be in the minority (which is not a bad thing, it is just important for us to understand the UX on

      I do not know of any comprehensive study, however I do have my own experience with my four books plus dozens of other books from both my clients and my collective.

      I started with a very standard page that mirrored exactly my back cover copy. I clocked in at about a 13 clicks to 1 purchase. Which is not considered bad in the industry, especially an indie.

      However, there was no way I could sell enough books at that ratio to make the royalties I wanted. I then started tinkering with my page. Each individual change brought that ratio down first to 12:1, then 10:1, then 8:1 then 7:1 etc., until I got it down to a 3:1 ratio which is far above the industry average (10:1).

      Once I got my ratio down significantly I started pushing clicks to it and drove my title (s) into the bestselling lists that then generated native, organic sales within Amazon so that now I sit at a 1:1 ratio which means for every click I generate to my Amazon page, I get 1 sale.

      I understand that a reader such as yourself may not purchase my book based on the matrix I presented in the article, however thousands of other readers will 🙂

      For more difficult to sell genres such as Literary fiction and more high brow historical fiction, having a more traditional Amazon page may be helpful to attract readers such as yourself 🙂

      But for us genre kids, having a more exciting and sale driven page seems to consistently increase sales, dramatically 🙂

      1. Linda Acaster

        Okay, dumb question coming up:

        how do you know how many clicks to buys you get on a book, or preferably an ebook? I’ve been on Author Central and can’t fathom how to get that info. This is one feature I love about Smashwords as it logs how many download samples are taken. Am I missing something similar on Amazon?

        1. Carolyn McCray

          No, there is no conversion tracking per se with Amazon, and yes I would LOVE to know how many samples are being downloaded at Amazon, but more on that later.

          For my social media campaigns, I use to keep constant track of how many clicks go to Amazon (and where they were generated from but that is a whole other article in the making).

          I also know how many clicks I get through AdWords. I combine those together to total the clicks that I have generated (which, um, for the most part who else is creating clicks for me?:-)

          I then divide this by the number of sales to come up with my ratio.

          Whenever I am researching a title and figuring out its marketing campaign, I turn on and off its social media or ads and double check my statistics.

          I only report findings that I can recreate again and again and that are sustainable over weeks to months.

          As to Smashwords, be careful. The download pool there can be quicksand. People fulfill their urge to obtain by downloading a large sample, read a bit and then go ‘I will get to that later.’

          Um… in my experience they never get back to it. On Smashwords I have about a 62:1 ratio of download to purchase. It is exactly the same book that is selling at a 1:1 click to sale ratio on Amazon.

          The mentality on Smashwords does seem to be more like a library where far more browsing is involved with less urge to purchase.

          My sales are night and day between the two platforms.

          I find the same issues with ads on GoodReads, FaceBook, etc. People are not there to buy. They are there to browse. Adwords (and I can only imagine the other ads based on search engine) is the only ad platform that consistently delivers buyers (and even that takes a tremendous amount of research to craft an ad that attracts a buyer rather than a lookey-lo).

          Hopefully that answered your question (and I’m sure engendered a hundred more 🙂

          1. Linda Acaster

            Ah, right. I use but have never got a handle on its stats. I’ll take a closer look.

            And your answer makes me feel better about Smashwords, too. My buy to download sample is 1:10.

          2. Edward G. Talbot

            I was going to ask the same question about how you figure out clicks, so thanks for answering. Now let me preface my further questions/thoughts by saying I am not at all trying to be obtuse or difficult. I am simply trying to make sure I understand exactly how you come to the conclusion that you have “x” number of clicks and that a specific number of sales can be definitively tied to those clicks.

            When you talk about, are you saying that you’re only tracking clicks that are generated by links that you have been responsible for disseminating (not including adwords, a separate thing)?

            For instance, a user might find your books via:
            -An amazon tag/category search
            -A “users who bought this also bought”
            -A “user who like this might like”
            -Amazon sales rankings, which your book certainly has been high enough to trigger since partway through your successful “launch” day.

            Am I correct that is not tracking any of that? In discussions with authors at kindleboards who are having success, the consensus is that while exact data isn’t available from amazon, they are hearing from readers that the above four methods (especially the last three) are very common ways that readers find them.

            I’m assuming that you also kept any marketing or tweeting to a minimum during this timeframe to try to isolate the description as the reason for your sales increase. Now, i don’t know what your ranking was when your click-through rate was 10-1 then 8-1 then 6-1, etc. In men’s adventure, you only have to have a small number of sales per day to get onto rankings lists where people start to see it and Amazon starts showing it to ppl who bought other men’s adventure books. In fact, that’s one reason I made sure to get my second thriller into the men’s adventure category, to maximize the chances of it picking up steam on its own once I am able to get sales to a certain point. So my theory would be that your sales increased at least as much of their own accord as they did due to clicks during this time when you weren’t promoting it.

            So I do think that there is a plausible explanation for the increase in sales other than the product description changes. But I would never in a million years suggest you stop doing something that is working. And I think the overall point that you have to use your description to grab the reader is dead-on. And that you may have to think outside the box to do it. In one of my books, I could consider just trying using the first line “It is a good day for killing.” and then a sentence with a couple of key words that evoke images from the book. In my other book, this discussion with you has convinced me to move my two blurbs from other authors to the beginning of the description and put the actual description afterwards. It’s certainly something that should be constantly evaluated, and tweaked if necessary.

            I very much appreciate the discussion.

            1. Carolyn McCray

              Oh please, I LOVE talking about this and discussing it ad nauseum 🙂

              I did not want to freak others out, but I do take about 3 months to truly research a title’s sales history and keep the sales low enough that I do not hit any lists while I am optimizing the page. And yes, I do turn off all social media pushes and do not schedule any blog tours/interviews/radio shows during the evaluation period.

              I also keep the changes I make to the Amazon page for at least a week so that I carry through all of the days of the week since each has its own variations. I then average out the click:sale ratio.

              If there is a major change in the C:S ratio, I then go back to the old way for a week, recalculate to confirm the slide back. If I does worsen my ratio, I input the newer data and make sure that it performs better again before it becomes a permanent change to my page.

              To test these changes and in fact the C:S ratio is due to my page changes, I then turn off either social media or ads (whichever I was testing at the time) completely and let the title ‘float.’ At such low sales levels, the title invariably fall to zero sales fairly quickly, therefore proving the sales did not come organically from within Amazon.

              I then turn back on the social media campaign or ads and watch the sales and C;S ratio rise back to where I calculated they should be.

              Once I am certain I know exactly my ratio, I turn on my campaigns, drive the title up the rankings and then see my ratio improve as I obtain internal/organic sales from Amazon.

              Also as I stated I know that without Amazon internal sales my ratio is 3:1. It lowers to 1:1 through the mechanisms you discussed within Amazon itself.

              Based on how many clicks I am generating either thru social media or ads, I can estimate within 10% how many sales I am going to have that day.

              As a matter of fact I knew that the DBW article went live because I got a pop of 10 sales earlier than any ads ran. I went and checked and sure enough the article was up.

              Without having conversion tracking, I have tried to make my system as scientific as possible and make sure it is repeatable and consistent as possible. And this is not the first time I have put a title through this process. I can replicate it at will.

              My background is as a doctor of veterinary medicine so I understand the possibility of statistical contamination etc, but have tried to control those factors as best I can.

              Also in my experience the single most important factor for internal Amazon sales is hitting certain milestones on the category bestseller lists. You can feel the ‘lift’ as you hit these.

              I think I have answered your questions, however feel free to ask me any more. It is seldom someone wants to discuss the subject in such geeky detail. 🙂

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  35. Pingback: Blogs for Self-Publishers for March 13 – 19, 2011 — The Book Designer

  36. Christopher Wills

    Hi Caroline, first time I’ve found your site; it’s very good so I’ll be back. For me, a timely article because I have just published my first ebook; it’s in the ‘pending approval state’ in Smashwords at the moment. Once it’s approved I’ll head over to Amazon, taking all the points you made in this article with me.
    I don’t know if you are aware (your well designed article suggests you are) but your article almost exactly follows a tried and tested marketing acronym (I knew my MBA would come in useful one day).
    A – attention or awareness – attract the attention of the customer (good cover)
    I – interest – raise the customers interest by focusing on benefits (good reviews)
    D – desire – convince the customer they want or desire the product because it will satisfy their needs (product description and customers who bought this also bought…)
    A – action – at the end tell the customer what to do – buy this, click this, phone this number etc.
    Enjoyed reading it. Keep up the good work.

    1. Carolyn McCray

      Thank you so much for kind, kind words.

      As a matter of fact, I was not familiar with AIDA, but now I will claim it was part of my brilliant strategy from here on out 🙂 LOL

      Let me know when your book goes up on Amazon, I would love to give you a mini-critique (and possibly cite AIDA in the process).

      And just a word of warning, be careful with driving sales to Smashwords, the population there has a more ‘library’ mentality than a buying one. I strongly prefer to drive sales to Amazon and use Smashwords as a publication vehicle (to Sony, B&N, Apple, etc) and to easily give out reviewer copies and such.

      Again, thanks so much and can’t wait to see your Amazon page 🙂

      1. JL Oakley

        Carolyn, I’m working on my Product Page today and following your points. Trying to make it easy to read. Found some good quotes. You didn’t say anything About the Author that came up. I see that is part of a friend’s product page. Lists his awards and what he does. Wonder about that.

        Enjoying reading all the comments that continue to come in here.

        1. Carolyn McCray

          No, I am not a big believer in the ‘about the author’ in the PD section (there is an automatic “About the Author” section below the jump, under the reviews if any reader is that interested in you).

          Usually taking down the author part of the PD section INCREASES your sell through. Or at the least the effect is neutral. Unless you are non-fiction and your story greatly impacts the way people view your work or your bio is very funny or resonates with the novel, I strongly recommend you ditch the author notes.

          You have driven so far and so hard to build the excitement and desire to purchase you don’t want to undercut that or even distract with author info. 🙂

          But once again, don’t take my word of it. All of this can be tested… by each individual author. Put up your PD, monitor your sales for at least a week. Then changed up your PD, monitor again. If you see a significant difference in your sell-through I recommend you go back to the old way, make sure your numbers go down, switch to the new and make sure they go back up.

          That way you can account for any anomalies etc and truly know which page copy is best for you and your book 🙂



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