Sunday, February 8, 2009

Amazon: Making the 800 lb gorilla work for you

I love Amazon! They really know how to do things right. What they have done for book buying is in short amazing. Today's post will be an "overview" of some great things to take advantage of through Amazon. Each of these will take a "deeper" dive but I wanted a top level summary first.

If you are published traditionally, this should not be a problem. I know of know legitimate publisher that doesn't use this channel so it will be automatic. If you are not-self published and you are not available through Amazon this is a huge red flag - make sure your publisher rectifies this immediately.

When selling through Amazon there are two different ways: Directly through them, or through one of the "marketplaces". Marketplaces are "mini-stores" (you can even make one yourself it is really easy) If you are only being sold through a marketplace - that also is a problem you need to be listed on "Amazon" otherwise you risk not looking legitimate.

If you are self-published, you need to make sure you are in this channel. You have two choices: CreateSpace and Amazon Advantage. I highly recommend CreateSpace because there is just a 40% discount rate whereas Amazon Advantage has a whopping 55%. Even if you have a few thousand books printed up and stored I would send your same print file to CreateSpace so you can get the 15% savings in "Amazon's take". You can find more about CreateSpace in my post about publishing 101.

It goes without saying, but I've seen enough without them to make it a point here...make sure your book has a product description. A product on Amazon without a description is practically useless. How can you buy a book when you don't know what it is about? Using the blurb from the back of the book is usually fine. But feel free to augment it with information such as age appropriateness or whether the book is part of a series. The description is controlled by the publisher so work through them if you don't like what you see. For instance if there is too much "given away" of the plot you might want to negotiate with them changing it.


This is one you can do yourself (if your publisher has not). Notice the two product pictures to the left - The Crown Conspiracy has SITB enabled Avempartha does not (it will as soon as it is released). This allows the reader to get a "sneak peak" inside the book and read the first few pages. Sample chapters are an invaluable selling took (arg....another future post - I should make a list ;-)) people will read a bit and if they like what they see they are more willing to buy.

I'll go in full details later as to how you do this but in a nutshell you submit your whole book to Amazon and they make sure that only a few pages are exposed. Once you have enabled this feature they can see the cover, table of contents, copyright page, and 6 - 10 pages of the book.

Getting "your" message on your product page is a huge advantage and Amazon provides a mechanism for writers to talk directly to their audience through Amazon Connect. To use this feature you will have to verify you are the author. An online form provides you a way to specify the publisher contact information and then once they have verified you are who you say you are you can post information in the form of blog posts directly to any products you are the author of. Here is an example on Michael's "The Crown Conspiracy" product page.

This is an area that deserves its own separate post and I will go in more detail in the future. But for now let's just point out that tagging is very important. It gives you (and others) a way of classifying a product into various categories so that when they search within Amazon for a particular subject your book shows up. In order to tag you need an Amazon account associated with a credit card, but you don't have to buy the product (or any product for that matter) to make a tag. You have up to 15 words or phrases that you can identify with your book. For instance Michael's books has tags such as: fantasy, fantasy series, wizards, magic, etc. If enough people have tagged your book you will get a ranking (the top 100 books in each category are designated as shown here)

There is a great blog on tagging that I highly recommend click here if you want to learn more about tagging before I can post in more detail.

The number one thing that sells books is good reviews and thankfully Amazon makes it easy for your readers to tell others what they thought of your book. I bump into people all the time both in person and online that say how they loved Michael's book. EVERY TIME I hear that I remind them to go post a review on Amazon. Even with all my nagging there are only a fraction of the people who actually go do it. Why? I have no idea. The most interesting thing is that even those closest to us rarely post and it is the single biggest thing someone can do (besides buying a book) to help support you. At the time of this blog we have 27 Amazon reviews (21 5-star, 6 4-star) and only 4 of them are from people we actually know (and none of them are family)!

Personally, I say the author should avoid reviewing their own book. Sure you can vote for yourself if you run for public office but that is private and many people take offense at writers "blowing their own horn". It is particularly problematic if there are only 1 - 3 reviews. Bottom line about reviews...ask everyone you meet and you'll get a small fraction of those actually posting.

This is a new initiative for Amazon and it is still in beta. It allows for an area dedicated to a single author where their books can be grouped and it offers: a bibliography, and can include a biography, author photo, and discussion board. I only recently discovered this capability and after I learn more I'll make another post.

Another item that deserves its own post but for those not familiar...a Kindle is a small electronic device that stores hundreds of books and allows Amazon customers to buy books formatted in a special electronic format usually for a significantly less than the standard cover price. Making a "Kindle version" of your book is easy (again I'll take you through it step by step in the future). It is important because Kindle users generally have "given up" on printed books. If you don't have a Kindle version it is unlikely they will buy the print version so if you don't have one for them to download you'll loose a particular market segment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Robin, I didn't know which post to leave a comment at because they are all so helpful. I've been dormant in the publishing of my writings for 20 years so I'm not up on the current issues. Your blog is invaluable. I couldn't do without it.