For many publishers, Amazon is the No. 1 place where their books are sold. The massive online retailer is thought to have about two thirds of e-book sales market share and is considered the largest bookseller of any kind in the U.S.
It behooves publishers to make sure that they’re doing all they can to maximize their sales on Amazon.
In Sept., at the Digital Book World Discoverability and Marketing conference in New York, Amazon.com’s director of author and publisher relations Jon Fine spelled out for the audience of hundreds of book marketers the top three ways they could make sure they were getting the most out of Amazon.
“Make sure your book is always available,” said Fine.
The first step is making sure the print edition of the book is in stock.
“When people come to our site and see our book in stock, they know they’re going to get it in 24 hours. If a book is not in stock right away, that person is going to find another book and you’ve lost a sale,” said Fine.
The next step is making sure that the title is available wherever readers are around the world – either through print-on-demand or through a high-quality e-book version.
Publishers and authors should also make sure that their book is available in whatever format in which readers might want it.
According to Fine, only 5% to 10% of all books published are made available as audio-books. For many publishers, producing audio-books is complex. Fine advocates that publishers having trouble with audio production use ACX, a new marketplace for publishers, narrators, audio production professionals and studio space. ACX is a new service from Audible, the audio-books company owned by Amazon.
Fine also advocates making books available in multiple languages.
“It’s become easier to make it available in all these different ways. You never want a reader to have a hard time coming to your books,” said Fine.
It’s a word that routinely puts conference-goers and webcast audiences to sleep – but it’s also probably the most important piece of maximizing Amazon sales.
Metadata is basically the online version of everything publishers used to sell books before the rise of digital: Book cover, synopsis, author information, book-jacket blurbs and more. Ignoring the digital versions of these things can doom a book to obscurity.
It starts with the cover. Online, an effective cover is different than what works in print.
“What looks good full-size doesn’t necessarily look good on your cell phone,” said Fine.
But it doesn’t end with the cover. Publishers must make sure their books are categorized correctly and associated with the correct keywords.
“The amount of time you go online to shop for a book and use keywords has grown astronomically,” Fine said.
Perhaps the best piece of metadata that publishers can use to help readers find their books is the text of the book itself. For publishers that enable it, Amazon will search inside the text of the book when readers use the site’s search function.
“’Search inside the book’ will make it more likely that your book will pop up in search results. It’s free,” said Fine.
Overall, publishers should think about Amazon like a homepage for their books on the Web, said Fine.
“Your Amazon page is the homepage for your book on the internet. More people are going to discover your book through our page than anywhere else – so you want it to be on steroids,” he said.
Authors are the best advocates for their own work. According to Fine, Amazon is focused on making it easier for readers to discover authors and for authors to engage with readers through Amazon.
Amazon is improving its author pages. Fine announced at the conference that the pages would be adding an integration with Facebook in addition to all the other dynamic content authors can add to their pages: Twitter, videos and more.
“The information on the author page should by dynamic. It shouldn’t be static. You should be constantly looking for ways to enhance it and build it and update it,” said Fine.
Amazon is also starting to add features to the author pages that could help authors make marketing decisions. Starting with authors published by its own Amazon Publishing division, the company is now offering Kindle unit sales information. Author pages already include a “sales-numbers heat-map” that shows authors where their books are selling best, allowing them to target their marketing geographically.
If these tools work well, Amazon will roll them out to all authors on the platform, Fine said.
“Regardless of who publishers you, authors need to do a hell of a lot more than usual,” said Fine. “This is about helping authors figure out what they can do on Amazon.”
Overall, publishers and authors should “make it easy for people to buy your book,” said Fine, who then pointed out that Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers all have affiliate programs that reward sending readers to retailers to buy.
He also added that a greater volume of reader reviews is more valuable than a small number of reviews with more stars.
“On our site, the more people are talking about your book the better,” said Fine. “Even a bad review will make people want to read your book.”