Five ways to excel on Amazon

0c5aacf3f358a056c5901b14dce9c8a9f9e45841It’s time for the second in our series of guest posts. Leila Dewji co-founded I_AM Self-Publishing to help self-publishing authors get to market in the most professional way possible. Here she shares some of the tips that her authors use to get one step ahead of the competition on Amazon.

Let’s face – it Amazon sells more books and eBooks than anyone else. Whether you are a self-published or traditionally published author, getting your book’s presence right on Amazon is crucial. Although the mysterious machinations of Amazon’s algorithm are yet to be totally cracked, there are several simple things you can do to give your book the best shot of being discovered on Amazon that don’t require any super-geeky knowledge.

Before we start, one thing for all authors and publishers to remember is that Amazon is a search engine (like Google, but all the searches are carried out by customers ready to buy). Think about how powerful that is.

Register information with Nielsen ASAP

Even if you don’t have all the final title information, send whatever you have to Nielsen as soon as possible. It doesn’t matter if you need to make changes to it later on – Nielsen can normally push these through the system in a few days. It’s great to upload the cover as soon as you have it, but don’t wait on that to register the ISBN. This isn’t just my advice, at Nielsen’s conference for independent publishers last year, this is exactly what they said. About a week after you have registered title information with Nielsen, Amazon will ingest the data and you will have the skeleton of a product page.

Claim and Jazz Up Your Amazon Author Page

As soon as there is a product page for your book on Amazon you can join Amazon’s Author Central program. Your Amazon author page is your base on the retailer’s site and it allows you to give readers some additional information about yourself, such as a short biography, pictures, videos, upcoming events and live feeds for your social media networks. Most authors do not make the most of their author page, but it is really worth spending some time on it. Check out Patricia Cornwell’s page, for a good example.

Research Your Niche/Sub-Chart

1One huge advantage of Amazon over your lovely local independent bookshop is its vast range. There are so many titles that in order to marshal them into a semblance of order, they have created a very detailed classification system. For example, giving a title a YA BIC or BISAC code and hoping it will feature in a YA chart will no longer work; you need to know which sub-chart within YA you want to feature in. Within the Teen and Young Adult section on the Kindle store, there are 18 subcategories. You can easily get a sense of which of these are the most competitive. The screenshot here shows that the competition in these sub charts ranges from a few hundred to tens of thousands (you are looking for a chart with the least competition).

Drill down and repeat this exercise e.g. If I choose ‘mysteries and thrillers’ then ‘romantic’ I find that the competition is now only 700, whereas the competition for ‘romance’ is 15,000. It’s a numbers game – you are looking for a chart small enough for you to stand a good change of hitting the top 10. Use this sub-chart name in your Kindle metadata, along with your other keywords. There may be several good small sub-charts that you want to feature in, put all those tags in your metadata.

SEO Your Product Page

On-page key word density counts and your product page there will be a lot of text that you can control:

  • Title
  • Subtitle
  • Series Name
  • Blurb/product description
  • The first few lines of your Author Central biog.

You need to get your keywords in these as much as possible (whilst still making sense). For example, If you want your book to rank for something like ‘historical fiction’ then make sure you use that keyword in your blurb and in the first couple of lines of your author biography on your Amazon Author page e.g. ‘I have always read historical fiction, and been a great fan of authors such as Hilary Mantel…’ might be a good way to start. In simple terms this means that you are really hammering home to Amazon that ‘historical fiction’ is what your product page is all about.

Use The Same Link

Once your book or eBook is live on Amazon you will want to share the link. However, there are lots of different URLs that will link to the same page – if someone has searched by author name they will get one URL, if they have searched by title they will get another, if they have searched by topic they will get another. You want to try and standardise things and have the same URL feature across the Internet in as many places as possible. The more links on the Internet to a particular Amazon URL, the more important Amazon will think it is, which will help with rankings.

If you just type your product name into Amazon you will get a really long URL. For example, if you search for the Booker winner A Brief History of Seven Killings by typing this into Amazon’s main search box, you will get a list of results with the book you want at the top. If you click on that, you will go through to a product page with a very messy URL:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Brief-History-Seven-Killings-WINNER/dp/1780746350/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1455107666&sr=8-1&keywords=A+Brief+History+of+Seven+Killings.

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If Marlon James started sharing this URL, he wouldn’t be doing himself any favours. What authors need to do is delete everything after the 10 digit ISBN or ASIN and share this link e.g.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Brief-History-Seven-Killings-WINNER/dp/1780746350

This will send people to the same place.

Bonus Tip: Get as many reviews as you can. Encourage everyone who reads the book to leave an honest review on Amazon. You might want to add a page at the back of your book specifically asking readers for this feedback.

I hope that’s given you some good ideas. If you have any other tips or questions about any of these please tweet me at @iamselfpub.