WG2E Guest Gordon Kessler on “Starting Your Ebook Promotions on Your Amazon Book Page”

Happy Sunday, WG2E-Land!!!

Please give a big ol’ WG2E Welcome to Gordon Kessler, who’ll be chatting with us about…

Starting Your Ebook Promotions on Your Amazon Book Page

Take it away, Gordon…

I’ve been amazed to discover how many well-established eBook authors have left out this very important first step. After all, you’ve written a great book, but who’s going to be compelled to take a good look at it without an attractive package. Think of it that way: your story is the product and the cover and Amazon book page is the package it comes in.

First of all, understand that while there are a number of other big online booksellers out there (like Barnes and Noble, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Sony, Diesel, etc.), Amazon is the big dog. In my experience, your book sales on Amazon for the majority of your titles are likely to be as great as five or even ten times what they are on other sites combined.

With that a given, the first thing to understand is how Amazon’s online store works, especially its eBook department.

  • Amazon uses algorithms, compilations of variable factors, to come up with eBook sales rankings and bestseller status. Although the actual formula is secret and seems to change from time to time, its basic makeup is believed to include:
    • Number of recent sales (past 24-48 hours);
    • EBook price (giving greater value to eBooks priced near $9.99 and less value to eBooks priced at $.99—much less for those downloaded for free);
    • Number of sales in the past month (a lesser value on this than more recent sales);
    • Whether an eBook has been “indie” or traditionally published (my teeth grind on this one!).
  • The lower the ranking, the more visibility your eBook will have, which means the higher the potential for sales.
  • The more your eBook sells, the more likely it will be listed on other eBooks’ pages under headings like: “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought,” “Customers Who Bought Items in Your Recent History Also Bought” and “What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?”
  • When an eBook shopper searches Amazon, its search engine looks for keywords, and it gives value to multiple use of those keywords (estimated to be up to three times) on the same page.

For the most part, the above concerns are out of eBook authors’ control. So let’s now take a look at the many things the eBook author/publisher does control on their book’s Amazon page.

  • All information you submit for your eBook should contain pertinent keywords in order to optimize the potential for Amazon’s search engine to find your eBook’s page (search engine optimization, a.k.a. SEO).
  • Cover—critical!
    • Should look professional
    • Images should be clear even in thumbnail
    • Title and author name should be clear even in thumbnail
    • Cover image file name should contain pertinent keywords (SEO)
  • Title: Did you know you can add a subtitle to your main title, even though that subtitle doesn’t show up on the eBook’s cover, for example: KNIGHT’S BIG EASY—a Men’s Action Adventure Thriller (SEO). Be careful, however. Besides looking bad, Amazon may decide to hold it from listing until the title is pared down some, should you go overboard.
  • “Categories” or genres: You’ll decide these when you upload your eBook to be listed. Amazon now limits your listing to two, however, they might list your eBook under more categories, themselves. This is another decision you should consider carefully, even though you can change your categories at any time and as many times as you wish.
  • Once your book is listed on Amazon, add images below the cover by uploading them with “Share your own customer images”. These images can be alternate covers, pictures of places, characters—just about anything you want (as long as you have the rights to it) that you feel might help sell your eBook.
  • Price: Consider this very carefully. The price of your eBook will put it into certain loosely defined buying groups, where lower price may be more important than perceived value or vice versa.
  • “Likes”: Ensure that not only you click the “thumbs up” like button, but all your friends, relatives and associates do as well. It’s been suggested by some authors that Amazon’s algorithm include likes, although at a lesser value than other factors. Besides, the more likes your eBook has, the more perceived credibility it may have.
  • Reviews: Although you can’t control this very well, you can solicit reviews in various legitimate ways. Reviews are considered super important to many eBook shoppers. And, when you do get some favorable ones, be sure you and your friends find those favorable reviews and click on “yes” where it asks“Was this review helpful to you?” Why? Because the most helpful reviews are listed first as default. You can also comment on reviews, but be very careful, and never be negative or argumentative with a reviewer. Also, remember that reviews will stay with your eBook … forever! So ensure your story is in great shape before you ePublish it.
  • “Formats”: Other versions of your eBook, such as paperback, might actually help sell your eBook. When a paperback version is listed with that format’s higher list price, Amazon adds the comment “You Save $XX” on the eBook version’s page. This makes it appear to be a bargain since your print book will generally be considerably higher [i.e., “Print List Price $12.95, Kindle Price $.99, You Save $11.96 (92%)”].

  • “Book Description”: Basically, this is your book jacket synopsis. Also, very critical to sales, ensure you edit this sales aid carefully. It should start with a pitch that includes a good hook, and it should read like a movie trailer. Don’t forget to include those keywords (SEO)!
  • “Book Description” Plus: Make your book description “pop”—stand out from the rest. Did you know you can use colors (like Amazon orange), and format text to at least a limited degree using some of the html language accepted by Amazon?

  • The “Customers Who Bought …” and similar sections: Although mostly beyond your control, how about if you purchase your own book (I recommend purchasing your own book once right after it’s listed), and then go to the list of bestselling free eBooks in your eBook’s category (genre) and download several of those? Why? Because your eBook might just show up on these other eBooks’ pages which gives you added visibility.
  • “Editorial Reviews”: if you have a CreateSpace POD version (paperback) of your eBook, when you give CS the book information, they have a spot for you to include editorial reviews. Try not to leave this blank! Be sure to include any reviews you’ve been given in the past. Include keywords where you can for SEO.

  • “Book Extras from the Shelfari Community”: Get a free membership with Shelfari: http://www.shelfari.com/. With it you’ll be able to list character bios and other neat info about your story that will appear on its eBook page (SEO).
  • “More About the Author” Bio: Be sure to set yourself up with an Author Central page (https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/profile). On Author Central you can add information such as your bio. Again, think SEO!

  • “Tags”: These are keywords—and you can actually add up to fifteen to your eBook’s page. Ask your friends, relatives and associates to either agree with the ones you’ve listed or make up their own. The more, the better: again, think SEO. When you list these keywords, consider which ones readers might use to search for a story like yours.
  • Listmania: This is a category grouping you can make on your own, and it is then offered for other Amazon shoppers to use. Although not as popular as a plain old keyword search, I understand many eBook buyers rely at least occasionally on Listmania lists. You can find out more at:

There you go indies! I’m sure I forgot a few little tips, and I certainly didn’t explain many in great detail. But I think you get the picture. You can do all the social networking, tweeting and Facebooking you want, but if you lead potential customers to your eBook page and what they see doesn’t stand out and isn’t professionally done, it’s likely they’ll pass on by. And for the eBook shoppers already hunting on Amazon for their next great read, you need to ensure their keyword search is likely to find your eBook.

I’ll bet you’ve got a lot to do, so let’s get busy! And don’t forget to pay it forward—help other indie author friends in making their eBook pages more attractive and more visible to readers: review, “like”, “tag” and “find helpful” their best reviews. Together we can attain greater success!

***Also, feel free to ask me any questions below and/or add your thoughts and experiences to our WG2E-Land Conversation…

About Gordon:

Gordon Kessler is a thriller novelist living in the Kansas City metro area with his golden retriever, Jazmin (Jazzy Brass). His blog/website is:http://GordonKessler.com. He’s taught novel writing for several community colleges, worked over twenty years for the BNSF Railway, and is a former US Marine Recon Scout, Super Squad team leader, parachutist and troop handler. He enjoys SCUBA, sailing, snow skiing and sharing time with his kids and grandkids.

Gordon has fifteen eBook titles available, of which his thriller novels JezebelDead Reckoning, and Brainstorm are all available in print, as well. You can find his Amazon listings on his Author’s Central page at: http://www.amazon.com/Gordon-A-Kessler/e/B005HL46E8/. His latest men’s action/adventure series, “THE E Z KNIGHT REPORTS,” is a sexy, humorous and irreverent thriller series…”—an action adventure thriller series like no other! With three books now available, a fourth is due to be released yet this year. These novels are about half the size of his big thrillers and are fast, fun reads.

With experience as a consultant and editor on numerous book and eBook projects over the past twenty years, Gordon has published five books for writers. Novel Writing Made Simple is a great primer for beginners and an excellent refresher for the experienced wordsmith. EBook Writing Made Simple focuses on the actual writing of eBook novels and how they can be crafted more effectively for the eBook novel reader rather than as a work written for the traditional publishing industry. How to Write a Novel–Storytelling, the Writer and the EBook Novel is one of his latest works, published especially with the beginning eBook novelist in mind.

Gordon’s also published two short story eBooks: a humorous piece called “Toothpick for Two” and a nostalgic romance called “Jack Baron”. Please check them out.

Gordon is a founder and past president of the Kansas Writers Association, a sixteen-year-old organization of some very special people. Last year, he started a group to help support independent authors called the Indie Writers Alliance (http://www.IndieWritersAlliance.com)—another group of great folks.

www.Twitter.com/gordonkessler

www.Facebook.com/gordon.kessler1

www.LinkedIn.com/gordonkessler1

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Comments

  1. Sibel Hodge says:

    A very comprehensive list, Gordon! Thanks so much for sharing :)

  2. Thanks. This is the best post I’ve seen on optimizing your book page.

  3. D. D. Scott says:

    Well done, Gordon!!!

    This is fabulous scoop!!! And it’s perfect as we try here at The WG2E to also offer more posts on the How-To’s along with the Marketing Strategies and Basic Principles of our Indie Epublishing World.

    I actually write what I call my Upload Description for each book (and its Book Page on each platform) before I actually upload the book. I try to do it right after I’ve finished each book so the concepts are really fresh and still in my head. LOL! Here’s a post I did on that:

    http://thewritersguidetoepublishing.com/having-your-upload-descriptions-in-the-can

    • Great, D.D.!

      Coming from you that means a lot!

      Great advice on your “Upload Description” and very informative previous post you linked to. You did that over a year and a half ago? Your archives are an indie’s treasure. What would we indies do without you?

      BTW: Please forgive the poor grammar in the first paragraph, last line. I inserted “the cover” and didn’t change “is” to “are”–I AM my own worst editor!

      And my bio is rather long–reads like an autobiography: “I was born…. Then when I was three….

      Sorry! If you ever let me do another one, I promise to do better!

  4. Ruth Harris says:

    Excellent! Sensible, down-to-earth & super helpful. Thank you, Gordon.

  5. Monica Davis says:

    Gordon, this is terrific info, thanks! Will go back and relook my own Amazon info listing.

    One question–not clear on what you mean by:

    “The lower the ranking, the more visibility your eBook will have, which means the higher the potential for sales.”

    Is this like a “golf score”? ;-)

  6. JamieSalisbury (@JamieRSalisbury) says:

    Thanks Gordon, great post! Lots of informative information . 95% I was already doing. What struck me was the part about the book pricing. If I read you correctly Amazon deems books less worthy if they are priced lower. That sort of seems a bit unfair. But not unexpected. Lots to digest here and contemplate what more I can do to increase ranking and sales!

    • Yes, Jamie!

      That’s my understanding from considerable research: pricing figures into Amazon’s current algorithms–and that grates on me, as well. Of course, only Amazon knows for sure, and they seem to adjust their algorithms way too often. This was more apparent back at the first of the year right after Kindle Select first came out. Since then, there seems to have been at least four times Uncle Amazon’s secret formula has been tweaked.

  7. Tamara Ward says:

    Thanks, Gordon! I’ll be taking and applying quite a few your tips. I really appreciate this post!

  8. Julie Day says:

    Thanks for this. Have just added tags to my latest teen estory. Didn’t know that you could add images to it as well. Have to try that one next. Anything to raise profile of my ebooks.

    • Yes! Great, Julie!

      Your eBook’s Amazon page is kinda like your own little showroom. Decorate it up with the keywords and images that will draw the most attention!

      • Hi, Gordon: Absolutely the post I needed today…I’ll be sharing it with my online writer friends right now!

        I loved what you said :

        Your eBook’s Amazon page is kinda like your own little showroom. Decorate it up with the keywords and images that will draw the most attention!

        Perfect concept.

        Thanks for sharing!

        Best,
        Janet

  9. Very interesting on the adding images. That’s a great way to promote other books you have written.

    Much appreciated!

    • That’s right, Pepper!

      Why not add a cover from one of your other books?

      It’s unclear how many readers even notice that other images are available, but I think more will catch on over time.

  10. Thank you, Gordon for the great tips. Happy Veteran’s Day.

  11. Ah, thanks, Rogenna!

    Don’t we have some great folks in our little (but growing) indie clan? And WG2E is just the very best!

  12. Loved the info on how clicking the “was this helpful to you?” button on a positive review pushes it up. Excuse me while I make a few hundred requests! Thanks for the great post.

    ~Nancy Jill

    • Great! Yes, Jill!

      Be sure to do that on all your own titles, and don’t forget to “pay it forward”. Catch as many of your indie, WG2E friends as you can with “likes,” tags and “yeses” on positive reviews!

      Together we’re a very formidable force in competing with the big legacy/traditional publishers!

  13. Wow! Very helpful, practical information. Thanks, Gordon. I learned a few things.

  14. Great blog, Gordon. I’m happy to see that I’m doing a lot of things right, but there is still room for improvement. Very imformative. Thanks!

    Lisa Mondello
    http://www.lisamondello.blogspot.com

    • You are very welcome, Lisa!

      Yes, we all have room for improvement, and this ePublishing stuff seems to be changing every day. Thank goodness for blogs like this that help keep us all abreast with the important stuff!

  15. Gordon: First, great post! Tremendous information. I did have a question though. How do we know that Amazon uses different algorithms for Indies vs. traditionals, and do we know anything else about those algorithms, such as what they do or are used for?

    • Hi, Giacomo!

      Great questions. Do we really know what Amazon is doing behind the scenes? No, it’s mostly educated guesses, and I understand some info has leaked (very little). I’m certainly not the one doing the guessing, either. I rely on compiling info from sources I feel are fairly reliable, weigh it for credibility from my personal experience, and then pass it on if I feel it has some veracity.

      As far as using “different algorithms for indies vs. traditionals,” I haven’t heard about that. What is speculated by a number of fairly informed sources is that Amazon may be plugging in a lesser value into their ever changing algorithm for indie published books than they do for traditionally published.

      My understanding is that these algorithms are used for both their “popularity lists” and their “bestseller lists”, as well as their search engine, thus placing to the forefront the eBooks they feel are going to be the most profitable to them.

      The bottom line is that, well, it is about the bottom line. Although many folks see Amazon as the best thing that ever happened to indies, Amazon did not open up the world of indie publishing to us as a benevolent offering. Amazon is a business. They must make money. They must be profitable. It’s about money. We’re making them money.

      Again, great questions, Giacomo! I hope my explanation if accurate and helps everyone understand Amazon’s algorithms better.

      • D. D. Scott says:

        I do think what you said right here, Gordon, is definitely happening more now that the Dept of Justice Settlement in the TradiPub Price Fixing Issue is in effect:

        “What is speculated by a number of fairly informed sources is that Amazon may be plugging in a lesser value into their ever changing algorithm for indie published books than they do for traditionally published.”

        I especially think this could be the case when it now comes to the 99 Cent Price Point. Now that the TradiPubs are experimenting with 99 Cent Price Points, I’ve noticed they’re getting a ton more visibility than all of us Indies who have been at that price point for awhile. 99 Cents is no longer the visibility booster it used to be. I will be mixing up my own price points in 2013 for this very reason…more on that in future posts.

        • You know, D.D., it’s like they bait us, then they yank the bait right out of our mouths! Argh!

          I just wish they’d let us know exactly where we stand and not throw us around like rag dolls! Of course, that would be too easy and where’s the challenge in that?

          Do I sound bitter? Sorry, I try to have a positive attitude!

          Thanks again, D.D.!

  16. Merry Bond says:

    Wow, what great information! Thanks so much! I was already doing a good part of it, but I’m intrigued by the fact that you can add html tags to the description. Is there some place were they list which ones you can put it? Like, how can I get that color in there — it would really make it pop!
    Thanks!

    • Thanks, Merry!

      There’s an excellent Kindle Boards discussion on html coding for book descriptions at: http://www.kindleboards.com/index.php?topic=120446.0 . Also, there’s an eBook available that I believe is called Making A Killing on Kindle that lists a few. That said, I don’t endorse this book or believe all the info within it is good advice. He actually mentions some things that are fairly questionable and several that Amazon no longer allows.

      For color, use YOUR TEXT HERE

      Dark orange (darkorange with no space inbetween) is Amazon’s main color. A simple red or blue is also nice.

      Have fun!

  17. Brilliant. This is must-read info for any indie or author with a small press. Will RT!

  18. Lyn Sofras says:

    This is great, Gordon,

    Thanks so much – I’ve learned quite a bit from this and it’s made me immediately re-appraise certain aspects of my own marketing.

    I did have a little smile at this though: “Also, remember that reviews will stay with your eBook … forever!” – because, as many of us have sadly discovered, that’s no longer true!

    With everything else, I totally agree.

    Thank you,
    Lyn

    • Ah, the reviews … yes, the bad ones typically last forever!

      Anyway, most folks know about Amazon taking down reviews they supposedly thought were less than sincere, some placed by authors with multiple accounts on their own books and thier friends’. Also, that some authors were placing bad reviews on their “competitors’” books. Lot’s of controversy, here.

      Also, a reviewer can take down or change their review, and there is a way you can wipe the slate clean.

      That said, my advice is that an author should write the best book they can and edit it very carefully before they upload it for sale anyplace on the Internet. Expect that especially bad reviews will hang on forever.

  19. Adding another wow! I loved all the info you provided here and now have to check out D.D.’s older post, too.

    BTW, I read your whole bio and liked it! I felt like I got to know you a bit. :)

  20. Thanks, Gordon. This is a big help for someone like me who’s new to Indie publishing.

  21. Alison Pensy says:

    Thanks for the great info, Gordon. It is much appreciated and there were several things I hadn’t thought of that I will certainly look closer into now. Great post!!

  22. Thank you for sharing this information. There were great ideas I hadn’t thought of either, so I appreciate this post. I opened my page while reading this so I could be familiar with what you were talking about. I didn’t know how listmania worked so that alone was a big help. Great post!

  23. Highly informative, great insights. Thank you so much for sharing! :)

  24. Gail Kushner says:

    Great info! I just published the Kindle version of “My Psychic Search” book earlier this week. I’ll go back and check my Author Page, etc., to make sure that I shine.

  25. Some great points – I knew a lot of this but got some pointers on the html and a great reminder to remember my keywords :) , so thank you.

  26. Thanks, Renee!

    Now go make your Amazon book page really stand out!

  27. D.D. Larsen aka Dean says:

    Thank you so much for so many great tips. It is much appreciated.

  28. Thanks, Gordon, for a very succinct, clear summary. I’m doing probably about 75% of this already. But a couple questions, if you don’t mind. One, I just put my latest release out in POD as well as e-book but Amazon has them listed separately. How do I get them to connect them up with each other?

    And two, I wasn’t totally clear what you meant in the keyword SEO discussion. Are there specific words Amazon’s computers are looking for? Or did you mean that we should think of a few keywords related to our book and use them often on the page, in the description, etc?

    • Thank you, Kassandra!

      I’ve had that problem with the two versions not linking up, as well. I found that both Kindle and CreateSpace are good at taking care of this kind of business with a simple email or even a phone call.

      I’d suggest first going to “Help” on the KDP site and then find the contact button. Under “What is the problem” click on “Linking Print and Kindle Editions” and then fill out their contact form. It’s easy and they respond pretty quickly. Here’s a link so that you can bypass clicking on “Help” and the “Contact” button: https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/contact-us.

      About SEO–I’m talking about terms potential readers might use when searching out a book they’d like to read. Think about what you’d use to find a book or eBook like yours on Amazon. One little tip that few authors think of is to be a name dropper–use names of bestselling authors who write in your genre for tags and in your book description. Be careful, though; don’t boast about being “better than XXX” but maybe more like “If you like XXX, then you’ll like (name of your book)”.

      • Thanks for the link, Gordon. I guess lots of people have that problem or they wouldn’t have it on the menu. And thanks for the additional clarification about SEO. I may be doing some blatant name-dropping from here on out. :)

  29. Mark says:

    This is great stuff!

    I’d love to syndicate it on my blog. If you’re interested, send me an email.

    I’ll link to the original and include whatever links and author bio you want me to.

  30. Patrice says:

    Gordon, thank you so much for all the info! Really appreciate it! Had no idea I should use keywords in graphic uploads! Very informative.

    Patrice Williams Marks

    • Patrice,

      I didn’t know this one either until a couple months ago. Again, know one knows the inner workings of Amazon’s search engine and algorithms for sure except Amazon–but I got this particular info from a couple reliable sources, and it does makes sense.

  31. Thanks for sharing, Gordon! I knew there were things I should be doing with the product page, but wasn’t sure what they all were. Now I have some work to do!
    Thanks
    Kenra

  32. A thoroughly helpful list. I’ve done many of the things here, but there are a few I missed. Now I am going back and filling in the gaps. Thank you!

    About Amazon ‘rating’ traditionally-published books higher than self-published … then why do they even have CreateSpace then? It’s like robbing from your own back pocket. Doesn’t surprise me, though.

    • Thanks, Anna!

      Amazon makes money off of CreateSpace in more ways than one regarless of whether or not legacy/trad published books carry more weight than indie published. Their big cash cow is still the higher price point, traditionally published books that sell by the tons.

  33. Sheri says:

    Hi Gordon,

    I’m slow getting to this post because I knew it was going to be informative and wanted to read it when I could really absorb it – all I can say is WOW and THANKS! And I’ve got a lot of work to do. :)

    Loved seeing you are from Kansas City – so am I, although now I’m living in south Florida, K.C. is still my favorite city in the world!

    Your website is great – I can’t get over how many ‘functions’ you’ve got on there. :) I’m going to buy one of your EZ Knight stories – those look really great! I ‘liked’ your author page and clicked ‘yes’ on a couple reviews of Brainstorm. :)

    Thanks again for all the helpful info in your post.

    Alex Sheridan
    Author of Finding Round

  34. Thanks, Sheri!

    Oh, but Florida is so much warmer!

    I just did the same with your novel, Finding Round (“liked” and “found helpful” with a “yes” on those five-star reviews)–stick together, indies!

  35. Just when I think I know everything I need to know about optimizing the product page…along comes Gordon Kessler! Great tips, three of which I hadn’t even considered.

    For example, I didn’t realize one could ‘vote up’ a good review on one’s own book.

    Many thanks, from one thriller writer to another. Speaking of which, I”m off to check out your books.