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.
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.
I know it has been a while since we had an author speaking to us about the craft of writing and we have Beatrice who will talk to us about a topic that is very relevant today – writing diverse characters and poverty as a diversity factor.
I will let Beatrice talk now!
Say hello to Beatrice!
Beatrice De Soprontu began writing at the age of four, when she scribbled on the walls with a crayon. Now an adult, she mostly scribbles on her home computer surrounded by her noisy children and their less noisy father.
Born and raised in New York City, (which includes: Queens, Bronx, Brooklyn, maybe even Staten Island – a.k.a. the real New York and not the tourist trap that is Manhattan), she enthusiastically travels the world on a budget whenever she gets the chance.
You can find her book Vices/Virtues on Amazon or B&N
Let’s get on with it shall we?
One of the greatest tenants of fiction writing is that a strong character needs to overcome major adversity. In modern literature these hurdles can stem from identity markers such as race and sexual orientation, or they can be of a more fantastic nature such as aliens or monsters. Oddly however, being impoverished is rarely depicted as a problem.
Roughly a third of the world live in poverty and that’s not just in the “third-world”. In the arguably wealthy United States, roughly 40 million people are impoverished. That’s a lot of poor people. All of them differ in their backgrounds, beliefs and lifestyles, yet they face a common foe: grinding day-to-day poverty. Their stories are important and should spur us as writers to represent them in our tales.
Hence, for authors who wish to incorporate the struggles of being destitute into their fictional works here are 5 easy suggestions.
Separate poverty from race
In many fictional works race and/or ethnicity are linked to poverty, especially “urban” poverty. It’s understandable given that disproportionate numbers of minorities are poor. However, the problem is that this merging of class and race easily leads to stereotypes.
When poor characters live in rural areas, they become hillbillies, when they reside in urban areas we get a scene from “Boyz in the Hood”. Please just don’t.
Separate poverty from crime
Newsflash: lots of rich and even middle-class folks commit crimes. While poorer areas might be affected by higher crime rates, illegal activities don’t have to define the characters’ lives.
Remember the very admirable Evans family from “Good Times”? The episode titled the “Debutante Ball” is all about how the older son J.J. tries to date a young woman whose family feels his is not good enough for her. Their opinion isn’t based on anything he’s done, but solely on the fact that he lives in the “ghetto”.
Voila! A plot that tackles urban poverty minus the gangbangers!
Poverty is relative
A person might not even realize how poor they are. Curious but true, if everyone around you lives a life just like yours, you probably won’t know life could be different. Especially when you are young, it’s easy to imagine those wealthy people you read about or see on television are fictional. (I’m a grown woman, yet I still find it hard to wrap my head around the flying airplane suites of “Crazy Rich Asians”.)
Likewise, you might have quite a number of conveniences (clean water, free schools, tv, cell phones, microwavable pizza, really fancy sneakers, etc.) and still consider yourself to be quite poor, leading to the next point…
Poverty can damage a person psychologically
The impact of poverty in a character’s life doesn’t have to be confined to the tangible here and now. Psychologists have written extensively on how prolonged impoverishment results in long lasting detrimental effects.
Increased stress and internalized shame are just some of the possible legacies. It’s juicy stuff for an author, real psychological foes that need to be vanquished. Why not mine the possibility?
Characters are more than identity tags
We are all more than our identity markers. Never trap a character in a label. Your poor character is more than that, he or she also has feelings about religion, sexuality, and ethnicity. This person may be irked by the incorrect positioning of toilet paper. (What’s best rolling over or under?)
Write to all of it. Don’t feel you have to explain every decision they make. Fictional characters, like all people, are mysterious creatures and that complexity is part of their beauty.
Make your characters diverse. Make them interesting. Make them struggle. It’s easier than you think. Just rob them. Take away all their cash. You’ll find that when resources are scarce, your characters become richer.
Thank you, Beatrice
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.
I love doing bookish quizzes, even if most of the time I score real poor on them. But hey they are usually fun to do and kill some time right? It has been a while since I did one of those quizzes here, so let us match the authors name to their books now.
Writing a book is just a part of your job as an indie author. Marketing your indie books is a huge task that begins after you finish your manuscript and get it published. As an indie writer, it is entirely up to you to get the word out there and get everyone to hear about how awesome it is.
Spreading word through the social media about your book is just breaking the surface. Ask any author and they will tell you it needs more than a couple of tweets and likes.
It is upon us to reach out to the book bloggers and readers community through every open avenue and guest blogging opportunities are just an extra tool to do that.
What is guest blogging?
I love writing on my blog and when some other blogger offers me a chance to do that on their blog, it is just more than an opportunity to write that I receive. It means the blogger trusts me enough to let me take over their personal space, which is a huge thing for me.
I am always looking for book sites to guest post, if you are a book blogger looking for a guest blogger, do reach out to me! I recently wrote on Dani’s Perspective of a Writer on Bookstagram and how it affected my reading habits.
I know how busy all of you are – writing plots, rewriting plots, editing your manuscript, thinking of miserable ways to kill my favorite characters, seeking out publishers, emptying the wine bottle and ordering Chinese takeout – yes yes, important things!
But I am just trying to make my case on why you should add guest posts on that list of to do things. Here we go!
Putting your name out there!
There is it. I don’t even have to sugar coat this, do I? Every author, indie or otherwise, is looking for new avenues to put their name and their book’s in front of new audience everyday, and guest post in your favorite book blogger’s site or any other book site would do that easily.
I mean a book blogger will definitely share a similar but new audience as you (AKA bookworms AKA your readers) and what better way to put yourself on a blast than to address them via their favorite blogger?
Reviews are not all that you need
Of course book reviews are critical to your sales and marketing. But they are not all, are they?
But you get to control where and when you are gonna write a guest article and you could schedule it to suit your promotional plans. It is even a win-win for you and the book blogger in that way.
Choose what you talk about
That brings us to my next point – you can decide on what you are writing about.
Initially the book blogger discusses with you on what sorta content they expect from you, but other than they usually do not interfere in your writing process. Depending on the topic you choose, you can be as informal and friendly as you want.
Many authors I know choose to talk about their books and their characters and some even discuss about their writing craft. It depends entirely on you to write whatever you want to talk about.
Linking your guest posts to your website and your articles will increase the number of page visits to your site and thus improved online presence. Of course, higher page hits means more revenue, if you are into monetization.
Pitch in your guest post ideas!
That brings me to the end of the post, almost. As I mentioned earlier, Elgee Writes is currently open for accepting articles from authors, artists and anyone who is related to the self or independent publishing world. If that is you and you are interested to write a guest post on related topics, drop me a message here.
Do you do guest articles? What are you favorite sites that accept guest posts from bloggers? If you have any author friends that are looking for sites to contribute, do share this post with them. And as always, let us talk.
If it were up to us, the bookworms, every book would have a great plot and well written. But sadly that is not the case! And we come across some not so great books often and a few even test our sanity.