Best Practices For Amazon Ebook Sales

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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 Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com page.  Rather than thinking of it as a webpage, I recommend that you think of your book’s Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com 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.

Reviews

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 Amazon.com 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 Amazon.com 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.

Carolyn McCray

About Carolyn McCray

Carolyn McCray is a social media and sales consultant to writers and publishing houses alike. Her own "marquee" title, 30 Pieces of Silver sat at #1 in Men's Adventure and War sub-genres for most of the 2011 Holiday season selling over 20,000 copies and landed her in the Top 10 Kindle Owner's Lending Library authors. Carolyn was one of the featured authors in Amazon's official press release regarding the success of KDP Select. Carolyn is also the founder of the Indie Book Collective, an organization dedicated to helping writers utilize social media to market their books.

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