Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Understanding the Amazon Algorithms

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.

Thoughts, anyone?

ChemistKen


24 comments:

  1. Good to know about those conversion rates. Guess it's a good thing I normally send people to the individual pages of my website rather than Amazon itself.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Now I'll start feeling bad whenever I go to check out a book without buying it.

      Delete
  2. That makes sense about the conversion rates and algorithms. Amazon tracks everything.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They're always changing their algorithms, so you never know exactly how they work.

      Delete
  3. I had no idea about any of this. It is certainly something to think about when trying to use Amazon as a marketing tool.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've kept my head buried in the sand about marketing for too long. Now I'm beginning to pay attention to marketing articles too.

      Delete
  4. Bottom line - promote to fans of your genre. I can understand those outside of it messing up the algorithm.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Makes me feel better if I have a small mailing list.

      Delete
  5. I also heard that Amazon starts promoting your book when you have, say, 15 comments. Did Chris say anything about that?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't remember hearing anything about that, but it's possible I may have missed it. I do know Amazon does take comments into account.

      Delete
  6. Always so much to learn. I had read about that. I know several people teach about it too like Nick Stephenson, and Bryan Cohen I've seen webinars where they talk about it.
    Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't watched either of their webinars in a long time. Maybe it's time to go back and check them out.

      Delete
  7. It gives me a headache to even think about it. I took some notes,

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All this marketing stuff almost makes me glad I don't have a book to sell yet. Almost.

      Delete
  8. Replies
    1. Who would have thought that telling fewer people about your new book might lead to more sales? It's a strange world out there.

      Delete
  9. I had no idea! I've been sending people to Amazon for years. I will quit doing that!!

    And yes, you need to finish your book. I'm sure it's awesome!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just make sure you have sample chapters for them to read so they can decide whether they want to go to Amazon or not.

      Delete
  10. A lot of information to absorb there. I have my book blurbs and links on my website, but I still use Amazon links when I'm promoting. I guess I'll have to stop doing that. Thanks for this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It'll take years to learn on this marketing stuff, and that's time that we can't use to write. Too bad.

      Delete
  11. Interesting. I'll have to set some time aside to listen to that podcast.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Take lots of notes. There's so much to learn about marketing books.

      Delete
  12. That's some great info, Ken! Thanks for sharing. :)

    ReplyDelete

There was an error in this gadget