|Photo courtesy of Pixabay|
The other day I listened to a podcast interview of Chris Fox over at Sterling and Stone. Chris Fox is reputed to be an expert on how to sell books, and although I’ll never be as hardcore about marketing as he is, he did mention a few things I found interesting.
One of the topics he discussed involved the algorithms Amazon uses to decide which books to promote. Although we authors use a variety of techniques to promote our books, from what I understand, it’s really only when the Amazon algorithms take over and begin promoting our books that sales really take off. Most authors know this, so to get Amazon’s attention, they announce their book to everyone they know when it first comes out—friends, family, other writers they know, and of course any readers they have on their email list—and hope that the algorithms see all the initial sales and decide to promote the book.
According to Chris, however, that is the absolutely wrong thing to do.
The way the Amazon algorithms work (according to Chris) is that they not only keep track of who buys your book, but also what else those people also bought. And they use that information to target other potential buyers. So if you’re selling an urban fantasy and the people that buy your book are mostly big fans of urban fantasy, then those people will probably have purchased other urban fantasy books along with yours. The algorithms will quickly pick up on this and begin promoting your book to other fans of urban fantasy (the “Also Bought” list, for example).
Unfortunately, your friends and family, and possibly many of the writers you know, aren’t into urban fantasy. So when they buy your book, they may also be buying romance novels or DVDs or cat food, and the algorithms get confused. They can’t figure out your target audience, which means Amazon can’t promote your book correctly, which means your sales will tank, which means Amazon will stop promoting your book. According to Chris, it’s far better to have a smaller, more tightly focused email list (full of hardcore readers in your book’s genre), than it is to have a much larger, but less focused list.
Another way to keep Amazon promoting your book is by keeping your conversion rate high. Conversion rate is a measure of the number of people who actually buy your book once they land on your Amazon book page. If tons of people are stopping by your page, for example, because of some promotion you’re running, but very few people actually purchase your book, your conversion rate plummets and Amazon’s algorithms will eventually come to the conclusion that your book sucks and will stop promoting it. Basically, you only want people to stop by your book page if there’s a very good chance they’ll buy it.
One way of fixing this problem is by having your promotion send potential readers not to Amazon, but to your own landing page. This landing page would have your blurbs and the first couple of chapters, along with the Amazon link, of course. That way, if they click on the Amazon link, there’s a high probability they’ll actually buy the book, making your conversion rate much better and the algorithms happy. Of course, there’s always the concern that forcing the reader to click twice to get to the Amazon page might discourage some buyers, but that’s the risk you take.
Of course, writing a great book is still the best way to gain sales, but once that’s done, it pays to know what pleases Amazon and their algorithms. Because in the end, the Amazon promotional engine may well be the most powerful tool in your marketing toolkit.