This last week I spent a lot of time participating in IndiRecon, a free online conference for writers.
One of the things that struck me most was this point, by David Gaughran. New authors tend to spend a lot of time promoting on social media, blogging, etc. But think about this. “If someone is on Facebook, they're probably chewing the fat with friends or looking at cat pictures. On Google, they're searching for something—their wallet is only half out. On Amazon, they are ready to buy.” It makes sense, then, to focus more on Amazon until you get well known enough that social media and blogging will help you connect with the readers you already have, and through them expand to new readers.
So here's the advice I compiled from several presenters who held similar opinions, all about how to increase your discoverability on Amazon.
Make your Title and Cover Work for you
-Do NOT confuse anyone with your title or cover. This includes, but is not limited to: unpronounceable words, cutesy non-fiction titles that don't explain what the book's about, titles completely at odds with the genre listed, titles too small to read on the thumbnail, books where the reader isn't sure which is the title and which is the author.
-Remember that shorter titles tend to sell better.
-Make sure the title and cover convey at very least the genre and tone of your book. Better that they convey some of the story too.
Choose Categories Strategically
-Get as specific as you can. In the Kindle store, “Fiction—General” may have a million books in it, and the chances of a browsing customer just happening upon your book are extremely slim. “Genre Fiction-Sea Adventures” has less than a thousand titles, and will bring you and potential fans together better. Provided, of course, that your story really is a sea story.
-Find smaller categories. They make it easier to get into top-100 lists.
-Decide on your ideal categories by looking up popular books similar to yours. You can also browse categories by clicking on the“shop by department” drop down menu and then drilling down (you'll often have to scroll to the bottom to find the department subcategories).
-If the category you want is not available to you through KDP, select non-classifiable as one of your categories and then e-mail Amazon, giving them the exact path you want to be in. Example: Kindle Store>Kindle eBooks>Teen&Young Adult>Historical Fiction>Ancient Civilizations.
-Brainstorm keywords and phrases for your book, then run them through a keyword analyzer to see which ones have the most searches. One program is the Keyword planner on Adwords. To get ideas for more words, you can also type your keywords into Amazon or Google and see what it autosuggests.
-Remember that Amazon allows you 7 keyword phrases, so “Young Adult Paranormal” is counted as one keyword.
-Test your keywords by putting them in the Amazon search box and see if the right sort of books pop up.
-Use associated words to improve SEO (search engine optimization), so if “young adult dystopian” and “teen science fiction” both apply, and you think people will search by both, use them both. Search engines think this makes your content a more reliable.
-Use your keyword phrases in the title, subtitle, or description. Repeat your classification/sub genre in the keywords, even if Amazon tells you it's unnecessary.
Pretty up your Book Description
-Think of your description as sales copy. It's not just your back-of-the-book blurb.
-Use headlines, sub headers, and bullet points to draw the eye. Bullet points in fiction, you ask? If nothing else lends itself to bullet points, use blurbs from reviews.
-Use html to get bold, headlines, etc. A list of approved html: http://www.tckpublishing.com/amazon-kdp-kindle-book-description-html-update/
-Use actionable words.
-Show social proof that it's good (awards won, best-seller status, etc)
-Include a call to action, like “Scroll up and grab a copy today.”
-Repeat your title in your description. You can also include excerpts. Especially for non-fiction books, include the table of contents in the book description. It's a really slick way to get your keywords in without sounding forced.
-Try using keywords in a subtitle, like “An Inspirational Romance.” Just don't make it too cheesy.
Price to Sell
-Price your books competitively.
-Johnny Truant, Sean Platt, and David Wright advocate always having some way for readers to get a complete, stand-alone, satisfying entry into any book or series you've published. This is not the same as the standard e-book sample, which comes with the understanding that the reader will reach the end of the sample—maybe mid sentence—and have to buy the rest. It shouldn't simply be an excerpt on your blog or Facebook, which isn't the same experience as a book. Possibilities for free entries:
a) For a series, make the first book free.
b) For a stand-alone novel, publish a free short story or novella set in the same world or with the same characters.
c) For a non-fiction book, publish a free essay on a similar theme or a stand-alone chapter on one specific topic covered in your book.
-Don't fear giving your books away. This may seem counter intuitive if your goal is to make money, but people love free things. They'll be more willing to gamble zero dollars on a new author. Then, if they like it, they may very well buy others. But these people never would have been exposed at all if that first bite weren't free. Think of it as a loss-leader in a grocery store.
-Amazon won't allow you to simply price your e-book free. However, they match other sites. So, if you want it perma-free, make it free somewhere else, like Smashwords, and then have someone report it to Amazon. They'll turn it free.
-Ethically-obtained reviews legitimize your book and attract customers. For ideas on how to get more, join me next month.
Think like Amazon
Understand that Amazon's mysterious algorithms are all to help customers find things they will buy. Set up your product in a way that helps Amazon link you with the right customers, and your sales will increase.
Michael Alvear's live chat (transcript still online): The Guerrilla Marketer's Guide to Selling Fiction On Kindle
Lori Culwell's article: Optimizing Searched on Your Book [Metadata/SEO] by Lori Culwell
Jim Kukral's Webinar: The Amazon Power of Selling by Jim Kukral from Author Ad Network
David Gaughren's article and live chat: Understanding Amazon's Recommendation Engine
Write, Publish, Repeat: How to Turn your Art from a Hobby into a Real Business Live Podcast with Johnny Truant, Sean Platt, and David Wright.
Melinda Brasher loves to travel, write, and play difficult card games. She has short stories and travel writing published in various magazines, and is the author of Far-Knowing, a YA fantasy novel. Visit her blog for all the latest: http://www.melindabrasher.com