Amazon has become almost synonymous with self-publishing. And if you are planning to or have already self-published on Amazon, I am sure you are always on the look out for more tips to reach the best seller list. Don’t you?
Let us hear from an insider from the business, shall we?
Say hello to Lucia!
Lucia Tang is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects self-publishing authors with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers.
Lucia covers various publishing-related topics on the Reedsy blog. In her spare time, she enjoys drinking cold brew and planning her historical fantasy novel.
Shall we get on with it?
What’s the indie author’s answer to a spot at the head of the New York Times Best Seller list? A correspondingly lofty perch on Amazon’s Best Sellers list, of course. If you opt to self-publish, you won’t be looking to the Gray Lady but the online retail giant for proof that your book has made it.
Luckily, self-publishing on Amazon is easy and fast — and that’s exactly why everyone seems to be doing it, from savvy genre geniuses to silly secessionists and DIY coffin-builders. The platform’s accessibility means both boundless oppo rtunity and bitter competition.
You might assume that the quality of your book, with its riveting plotline and tightly edited prose, will speak for itself. Not so — but there are few tricks you can use to help it on its way to the top. Without further ado, here are four tips every indie author should know when they self-publish through Amazon.
Tip #1. Think about your categories before you publish
Like every indie author, you know that writing your book is just the first step to seeing it on readers’ shelves (or in their Kindles). As your word count ticks upward and your plot winds down, you might already be envisioning (with either relish or dread) the marketing phase of things.
But the truth is marketing isn’t purely something that happens once the book is done: it’s an ongoing process that should begin before your first draft is even done.
As you write, think about your anticipated audience: what genre’s readers are you targeting, and how will they relate to your book? How is the story you’re telling similar to the ones they already love — and how does it stand apart from them all?
Thinking about this broadly is a good starting place. But because you’ll be launching your book on Amazon, you’ll have to look beyond, to a platform-specific consideration: Amazon categories.
On Amazon’s Kindle Store, books are divided into a number of categories, from those as broad as “Romance” and to those as specific as “Multicultural & Inspirational Romance.” Some are overpopulated, leading to cutthroat competition. Others get almost no shoppers — meaning it’s exceedingly difficult to get any actual sales volume, even for a “Best Seller” within the category.
To strike a happy medium, your book should aim for categories where demand is relatively high but the competition is relatively manageable.
It’s important to start thinking about these potential categories before you publish. Your book will naturally evolve over the course of the drafting process, and you might find that a plum category that was once a stretch is now a natural fit.
Tip #2. Make sure your cover isn’t too unique
Once you’ve written your book, it’s time to make sure it looks as beautiful as it reads. That means nailing the packaging. But as you craft (or commission) the perfect cover, there’s one counterintuitive tip you absolutely have to follow: make sure your cover isn’t too unique.
I know that sounds weird. Given how competitive Amazon is, shouldn’t you do everything in your power to stand out from the crowd? Well, you do want your cover to draw attention. But there are certain visual conventions you should follow.
Books draw upon an intricate visual code in their cover designs, even if they don’t belong to a highly pictorial genre like the early reader. For picture books and philosophical novels alike, there’s an established repertoire of typefaces, layouts, and other visual elements that makes each book’s genre apparent at a glance.
As a reader, you’ve probably used these conventions to inform your own book-buying choices. If you’re in the mood for, say, a beach-read romance, you’ll keep your eyes peeled for a whimsical, curlicued font. If you’re looking for military sci-fi, on the other hand, you’ll be primed to click on bold, sans-serif titles against cool-toned backgrounds suggestive of outer space.
Now that you’re an author, you’ll want to tap into these same assumptions to sell your book. So take a look at the top performers in the categories you chose for your book earlier. Pay attention to what their covers have in common, and think about how you can use them in your cover.
Tip #3. Write your book description with a three-part structure
When your book is polished inside and out, it’s time to head over to Amazon and set it live. f course, that isn’t a simple matter of mashing a big “Publish” button. You also have to generate all the content readers will see on your product page. That’s right: it’s time to write a snappy book description.
To succeed, your book description has to be two slightly contradictory things at once: a sales pitch for your book and a preview of your writing skills. This can be a challenge — after all, good ad copy and good prose don’t always look very much alike. But there’s a way to nail the sale without betraying your stylistic integrity as a writer: follow a three-part formula at the structural level, while using all the literary artistry at your disposal at the sentence level.
Here’s how to approach each section:
This section appears above the “read more” that pops up when a shopper loads your product page. You want it to grab their attention enough to click that “read more” — instead of hitting the back button. Choose a short and sweet tagline that distills your sales pitch. Has it already gotten rave reviews from a blogger you hooked up with an ARC? Is it perfect for fans of a buzzy series or hit TV show — but with much better gender politics and less shoehorned romance?
Here’s the part where you tell your readers what your book is actually about — without giving away too much, of course! This is a good place to introduce your protagonist. What makes them interesting? What kind of problems will they confront over the course of the book, and what’s at stake for them?
Your book description is, ultimately, a call to action. You don’t want your readers to merely luxuriate in your prose and move on — you want them to buy the book. Explain why they should pick it up.
At the end of the day, your book description should still sound like you, albeit at your punchiest. You don’t reader to feel disoriented and wonder whether you engaged a ghostwriter once they actually start reading your book.
Tip #4. Use HTML to make your product page pop
Over the course of self-publishing your book on Amazon, you had to grapple with a number of big-picture considerations, from the importance of visual convention to the dilemmas posed by commercialism in art. I’m delighted to end on a much lighter note, with a tip that’s far less philosophically fraught.
Now that you’ve got a punchy, three-part description that wraps your unique literary style in a charmingly commercial package, you’ll want to optimize how it looks on your product page. To really make your description pop, mix it up with some HTML. You’ll be able to add visual interest — important for your headline especially — with the following HTML styles:
- <b>Use this for bold text<b>
- <i>Use this for italicized text</i>
- <u>Use this for underlined text</u>
- <q>Use this for block quotes</q>
- <ol>Use this to create a numbered list
- <li>Each element of the list will start with this tag
- <ul>Use this to create a bulleted list— just like this one!
- <li>Use this, again, for each element in the list>
With a book description full of vim, verve, and visual interest, you’re ready to start reeling in sales. Now, off to write your next book!
Thank you, Lucia!
And I am back to thank her for taking time off her busy schedule to write us a guest post. You can follow and contact her through these links.
If you have something to add to Lucia’s story, drop a comment here or send her a word of thanks on the social media. Both of us would love that.
Also, if you are interested in writing a guest post for the independent publishing community, write to me right away. I am still accepting guest post submissions.
Let us chat
Have you published on Amazon? Or do you prefer traditional publishing? As a reader, does the publishing method make a difference to you? Let us chat!