This is a guest post by Jenn Grainger, and is taken from her awesome comment on my recent post about your best work.
This isn’t a post about sucking eggs. If you do want to do that, you can find some tips about doing so here.
Instead, this is a post for people who have a good book in them, but aren’t so sure about navigating all the smoke and mirrors that can come with self-publishing.
The launch phase lasts one week, where ranking with Amazon will succeed or fail.
There are skills you need before that final moment when you hit Publish to set your book up for success.
You can read books on self publishing. Or join communities. Or have a working knowledge of Amazon and Kindle Direct Publishing.
Do your research, focus on the questions below to teach yourself self-publishing insights (questions like “Who are the people succeeding in Amazon and why?”
Then learn the tricks.
The Game of (Amazon) Thrones
Yes tricks – it’s all smoke and mirrors. The goal is to get noticed by Amazon. They will notice your book when it is in demand. When they think your book will make them money, your book will promoted in the New and Noteworthy list. This will give your book wings.
If your book does hit the ‘Best Seller’ list, take a screenshot – because it may not last long and it won’t guarantee you a lot of money. But most authors would love to be in this position and don’t know how.
Become a student of the game. Set up your Amazon account. Go shopping – buy [Kindle] books. Research consistently the books and categories that do well and your competition.
Then start asking the questions you need to ask. Ask yourself,
- Why did people buy this book?
- Was it the title, subtitle, the well written “sales” description, the eye catching book cover or was it the category?
- Were the reviews written by people who bought the book organically or did that Author have support from a community?
You need to tick yes to all of these to be in Amazon’s list, also known as the Ten for Ten (10/10) list.
How a 22 Page Book Played the Game and Became a Besteller
Time for a little case study. I looked at fresh books listed, and randomly selected a book that caught my eye. Amazon had it listed as New and Noteworthy.
That’s how it stood out to me. The book? Minimalist Living: 40 Proven Steps To Simplify Your Space, Declutter Your Life And Increase Productivity, by Kathy Stanton.
Good title, good subtitle, and a pretty picture on the book’s cover. She has five similar books, which Amazon also loves. This girl is getting a lot right here! I’ve purchased the book and am going to use it to share a few pointers here.
22 PAGES! Sorry, just wanted to make sure you got that the first time round.
When researching for your own book, note which categories and sub-categories books are listed in. Get this step right, because as you’ll see, it’s crucial.
If you’re familiar with paid search or SEO, think Google Keywords and their High or Low competition insights. If you’re not familiar, this helps you find high impact keywords (that people are searching for) with low competition (so your search terms deliver the better results).
Then use that approach to find out how many books are in the small sub category.
You will notice Minimalist Living has the word “productivity” in the subtitle. If the author wanted to, she could use this to put the book in a different sub-category of “Productivity” and increase her reach. You can do the same.
The author has also listed her book in two similar categories: Crafts and Hobbies, and Home Improvement and Design, with the different subcategories there still attracting the same audience. Again, think of search terms.
Want to see how that worked for this particular book? This is the current ranking for the book on Amazon (click to enlarge):
Note the Self-Help category? That’s because the Self-Help Amazon algorithms picked up this book up as “noteworthy” – this is the game!
The author would also have listed the book in the free KDP program for a few days and maybe had several hundred downloads that Amazon will notice, and is another reason why they have picked it up.
It also won’t hurt that the author is likely to be part of a community.
It’s clear Minimalist Living is using a fantastic launch strategy, and the author knows what she is doing.
Disclaimer: I do not know this author. I’m not promoting her book and not read it yet. I’m reviewing the quality of the positioning and the launch strategy.
The Writing is the Easy Part
So what to take away from this? Well, for me, the writing is the easy part (stay with me here, authors!).
By all means knock yourself out with the gut-wrenching process of writing the book thinking that is the hard part. We all experience this for the first book – survive that, you will then need a humdinger of an editor.
Then there are a few technical things to learn – the marketing prior to the launch, for one. It might sound easy enough, and it is – for some. For others, it will feel like it’s the hardest thing they have ever done. I can promise, you will fit somewhere in between.
But marketing is everything.
If you have a brilliant title, seductive subtitle and scintillating book cover, and support that with a sensational launch strategy (supported by a spammy Facebook group, if you really must), then you will succeed.
Yes, you will get a few savage reviews but who cares? Just use a different name. 1000’s of people are currently doing this, right now.
You’re a legend, the book you wrote is magnificent and the topic is one that changes lives – and yet Minimalist Living will come out in front, make more money and rank higher, if you don’t play the game.
Line up your army of ducks, even if you think it sucks.
Stay on Target
Through all this, though, there is one thing you need to do, and that is keep “the Main Thing”, or your target, front and centre.
If your mission [should you accept it] is to become a best selling author, this is the target to hit (or you could aim for free promotion from Amazon).
Ranking in the number one position for a category or sub-category after the book switches from the KDP Free Promotion to the paid category is the goal.
If you want the title “Best Selling Author”, or even the top three which is also good for promotion, there is a specific trick to the timing of this:
When your book hits the top position, manually change your book in KDP Select Members Account to 99c at 1.00 PM US time.
Because Amazon takes 3-6 hours to catch up and they are still promoting your book, people are more likely to buy at $0.99 and that gives you a push to rank in the Paid Category.
Take our friend the book Minimalist Living: it only needs to be the top book in one (sub) category – Green House Cleaning – for Kathy Stanton to be a Best Selling Author (click image to expand).
The truth is you only need to be in this position for half an hour and take a screenshot to claim this title. Some people use reaching the number one position in the Free List to say they were a best selling author.
My book reached that (free) plateau. Do I say I’m a Best Selling Author? No. Do I care? No.
But even if you don’t care about the title and “fame”, you do want Amazon to promote you.
How I Came to Love Smoke, Mirrors, and Games
I wrote my book to learn the process of writing a book.
Did I know about the smoke and mirrors before I started? No. Am I happy to play the game? No. Will I play the game next time? You bet your sweet bippy I will!
Here are my top tips.
- Focus on the launch.
- Get it right the first time. There is no second launch.
- Pick your Longest Blog post or write out 25 recipes and launch it as a Kindle book, under a pseudonym. This way you can test and practice how to play the game while you’re writing your real book.
- Join an active, supportive community not a spammy Facebook group.
I also reached out to the group I’m in, here are their 3 top tips:
- Research your topic first, create a series [of books] and always use pro’s to edit and create your book cover. Lisa Cartwright
- Write a good book. Use a professional editor. Launch to an already engaged audience. Rinse and repeat (write more books). Steve Windsor
- Plan your marketing well in advance. Always be helpful to others without expecting anything in return, you’ll receive a lot of support when you launch! Find friends who have published and will support you in the process. David Bradley
“Smoke And Mirrors” by GOTYE
You’re a fraud and you know it. But it’s too good to throw it all away – anyone would do the same, right? You’ve got ‘em going and you’re careful not to show it.
Sometimes you even fool yourself a bit. It’s like magic – but it’s always been a smoke and mirrors game. Anyone would do the same. Right?
So now that you’ve arrived you wonder, what is it that you’ve done to make the grade and should you keep doing the same? (Is that too easy?)
Are you only trying to please them? (Will they see then?)
You’re desperate to deliver anything that could give you a sense of reassurance when you look in the mirror.
And the song goes on…
About the author: Jenn Grainger lives in Brisbane, Australia, and published her first ebook Love Travel Plan on Amazon in 2014. She started her Curious Minds Travel blog earlier this year to record her travels while working on book number two. Her future plans include living in either Chang Mai, Thailand or Hoi An, Vietnam. Connect with Jenn on Twitter.