I can’t think of a single reason to ignore Amazon so I’m not going to debate here whether or not it’s worthwhile. Nor am I going to talk about how to put your book on Amazon since, in my case, my publisher automatically loaded my book onto Amazon and magically a Kindle version appeared. But once you’re on Amazon, there are a few things you should do to increase your chances of ever being found by readers.
My advice is 100% based on my experiences. Those are no doubt limited so if anyone has other ideas or thoughts, please email me and I’d be happy to flesh this out.
1.Make sure your editions are all linked. When my paperback and Kindle editions both showed up in a search, I could select one or the other but there was no cross linking. A quick email to Amazon fixed that and now if you look at either book, a link to the other is provided on that book page.
2.Set up an Author’s Page. This will automatically place a link on your book page(s). You can do this by creating an Author Central Account. Put a biography, photo and you can even put in a feed from you blog here (I don’t blog so there’s just an old post leftover from the days when Amazon let you blog on your Author’s page). Let your readers get some idea about you to help encourage them to buy. Plus Amazon have added a tab on your Author’s Page that will show you sales of your paperback (not for Kindle) in the past month as reported by BookScan. It apparently gets something like 75% of your US sales – not perfect but better than nothing.
3.Fill in the Editorial Reviews for your book, including a Product Description. There is a page that allows you to do this yourself (from Author Central). In my case I could at one point add items myself, then I lost the ability. But the Amazon Author Central team will put information out there for you if you email it to them (there is a character limit). You can put the back-of-book blurb, front flap and independent reviews in this section. This should show up on Kindle editions as well. If not, email Author Central and they’ll fix it.
4.Get your book (not available for Kindle) in the Search Inside The Book (SITB) program. I’ve been told by people who buy books on Amazon that they’d never buy a book if they can’t see inside of it. I have to say I see their point. Certainly when I go to a book store or library, I flip through a few pages before making a selection. Don’t be put off by the scary language of the SITB contract, it does seem to give them rights to upload your entire book for free browsing, but remember, they make money only if your book sells so there is nothing in it for them to give your book away. I’ve yet to see a book with more than a couple of pages available for review. One warning! SITB sometimes (generally?) shows the reader the last page. My last page is “Meet Laura Rittenhouse” which is fine. But if your last page is the surprise ending you’ve had your readers panting for, you might be a bit unhappy that it’s given away. So for those of you about to put your book into print, maybe you should put your own “About the Author” at the end of your book – just to be safe.
5.Tag your book. As an Amazon customer (you’ve had to buy something) you can create tags and link them to books. Create a sensible set for your book so that others can “agree” with them. This tagging is one way people can find you. If, for example, someone likes reading immigrant stories, they can search on that tag and Amazon offers them a collection sorted by those with the highest number of tags. To be honest, I’m not sure what works best for tagging. If you start to enter a new tag for your book, Amazon gives you a list of possibilities which include how many times that tag is used. Is it better to select a popular tag because more people will look for it or is it better to go for an unpopular tag so if people do search for it, there will be less competition? The number of tags you want is up to you (though others can and do add their own to your book), but if you have more than a dozen or so, those with the lowest number of “agrees” get hidden and users will have to expand the list to see and select them. If you want people to tag you, you want it to be easy. A word of warning here – once you’ve tagged an item, when you return to the page the tag will be ticked. If you “agree” again, the tag count will be decremented by one. You can’t vote for a tag more than once or you count backwards. And finally, tags are independent of editions (not sure I’d design it that way, but it’s how it is) so you need to manage your tags for Kindle books, paper and hardback separately.
6.Reviews. As with tagging, any Amazon customer can review your book. People who you’ve asked to review your work (see my page on Independent Reviews) might place their review on Amazon. If you liked their review and they don’t put it up automatically, go ahead and ask them to post it for you on Amazon. Chances are they will. You also might want to tick that you found all your 5 star reviews helpful. If nothing else, this helps keep them at the top of the displayed reviews.
7.Get friends to tag you and review your book. And to simply open your book’s page now and then. Amazon is a numbers game, books offered to customers are ranked by popularity. This includes the number of reviews (and stars), how many hits (I’ve heard only hits where the user sits on the page for more than 27 seconds are counted), tags, and who knows what else. Higher counts means more people are likely to find you.
I don’t want to make it sound like this was all easy, I’ve had no end of hiccups, dilemmas and problems, but in every case, I found Amazon’s support quick and helpful. Even when it was one-step-forward-and-two-steps-back, I could trust that they hadn’t forgotten me and that it would all come good in the end. They may be a mega-corporation now, but, in my experience, they still are willing to spend time on the little authors.