THE INDIE FILES: Author tips and tricks for selling on Amazon
By William C. Tracy
Congrats! You’re an indie author! You’ve written a book, (hopefully) had critiques and edited it, put it all together, and thrown it up on Amazon. Time to watch the money roll in, right?
Well, not exactly. Amazon books don’t sell themselves. Especially in these waning years of the golden indie author rush, you’ll have to make sure others see your book to even know it exists. In 2010 or 2012, you could feasibly get away with assuming people would see what you’d written. Not now. I wince when people very proudly tell me they’ve written a book and are going to sell it on Amazon. I always have qualifying questions, which usually make their eyes go wide.
Here’s a brief list of tips and tricks to help your book get seen by more shoppers. Because that’s the first secret. Amazon is not a sales platform. Amazon is a very well-tuned search engine. You want to make it as easy as possible for people to stumble over your book as they search. This will not be an exhaustive list, but it’ll give you a starting point for your own research.
Your Author Page
This is the biggest and easiest trick. Make an author page through https://author.amazon.com/. This is a different website than https://kdp.amazon.com/, where you create your books! Fill in all of the information you can, including your biography, links, pictures of you and your books, connect to your blog feed if you have one, and most importantly, claim any books you’ve published. This means they will show up on your author page, and people can find your other books from the ones they’ve read. Amazon is continually adding new features, and a recent one is the ability to recommend books. Recommend your own! And tell people why they should buy it.
You can also add editorial reviews to your book by clicking on its title in Author Central and editing its content. The editorial review area is a free space for marketing, and people will see it before they get to customer reviews. You can add snippets of reviews you particularly enjoy, as well as ones from magazines and blogs, and even friends and family. Sell that book!
Lastly, there is a newer feature available for indie authors called “A+ Content,” located at https://kdp.amazon.com/aplus/. You know how some books have really splashy visuals in the middle of the Amazon description page? This is where you can add in your own illustrations, promo material, or other eye-catching content.
All this great stuff you’ve added to your page won’t help if people can’t find it. You want your book to show up in as many places as possible in the Amazon search engine. You know how it lists the top three categories and placement for your book? The secret is, you can have up to ten categories, but they’re quite hard to find. Fortunately, there’s a great website to help. If you go to https://www.bklnk.com/categories_2022.php, you can put in your book’s ASIN, and it will tell you what categories it’s in (you’ll also find some other cool information on that page). There are other tools like Dave Chesson’s Kindlepreneur (https://kindlepreneur.com/) that will show you all the possible categories your book could be in.
Regardless of how you find them, email Amazon to update your book (https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/GBMC3A6JNGW9DU7X) and ask that they add it to the categories you’ve chosen (max out all ten!), as long as they are actually represented by the themes in your book. If you get a refusal the first time, try again. Amazon has a lot of help representatives, and not all are familiar with book-selling requirements. A good strategy is to choose categories where fewer people buy books. A couple sales a day in those categories can get you a coveted “bestseller” orange banner!
In the book “details” page on Kindle Direct Publishing, there is space for seven keywords, which they list as optional. Fill these in! The Amazon search engine can match search terms from users with your book, so add as many different words representing themes in your book as you can. Each space allows 50 characters, and you can fit about 5-7 words in each of these spaces. You have the opportunity to connect 35-49 words between the search engine and your book! Don’t repeat, and choose carefully. Remember, you can also update these words any time you want, if you find a specific word or phrase starts selling more books.
This is an entire topic in itself, but good to address. As an indie author, you can pay for ads at https://advertising.amazon.com/. There is a lot of information about what and how to create them, and it’s often debatable how much Amazon ads will add to your exposure, especially if you set bids low (30 cents or less, or even under 10 cents). DON’T use Amazon’s recommended bid amounts. DO look up more information before investing, and decide if paid ads might help sell your book. Make sure you do everything else I’ve recommended first, however. If you don’t have a book that’s well connected to the search engine, ads won’t help a whole lot.
As authors, we’re not privy to what’s going on behind the scenes at Amazon, and the industry is always changing, so it’s important to maximize the places your book is seen however you can. Maximize the eyes on your book, and you maximize the people who will read it. Good luck!
William C. Tracy writes and publishes queer science fiction and fantasy through his indie press Space Wizard Science Fantasy (spacewizardsciencefantasy.com).
His largest work is the Dissolutionverse: a space opera with music-based magic, including ten books and an RPG. He also has a standalone epic fantasy with seasonal fruit-based magic through a LGBTQ+ small press. He is currently working on The Biomass Conflux, a hard sci-fi trilogy with generational colony ships and a planet covered by a sentient fungal entity.
William is a North Carolina native and a lifelong fan of science fiction and fantasy. He has a master’s in mechanical engineering, and has both designed and operated heavy construction machinery. He has also trained in Wado-Ryu karate since 2003 and runs his own dojo. He is an avid video and board gamer, a beekeeper, a reader, and of course, a writer.
You can get a free Dissolutionverse novelette by signing up for William’s mailing list at https://williamctracy.com/newsletter-signup/ or follow him on Twitter @wctracy and @firstname.lastname@example.org on Mastodon for writing updates, cat and bee pictures, and thoughts on martial arts.