What does it take to hit #1 on Amazon

Let’s qualify– #1 in a major genre.  Today my book Area 51 is the #1 science fiction bestseller on Kindle.  It’s #48 overall.  As the gold rush wanes in indie publishing, I want to lay out what it took to achieve that, and remember, it is fleeting but it does set a solid base.

  1. Writing the book.  This sounds so basic, but I’ve noticed a trend away from learning about craft to an obsession with marketing and promoting.
  2. Getting a good cover.  While 47North redid the covers, it’s obvious they based them on Jen Talty’s original cover for Area 51 when we republished them.  We’ve learned a lot about covers over the years and, yes, I let Jen overrule me, because she’s the expert.  She shot down my Blackbeard Flag cover for my next release:  The Green Berets: Chasing the Lost.  I still miss that flag.
  3. 3.  Making connections.  I made my first contact with Amazon several years ago.  I’d emailed back and forth, then at Digital Book World did that thing we all hate doing.  After a high ranking Amazon rep spoke to 2,000 industry professionals, I stood in that cluster around him afterward, looking like a doofus until everyone had talked to him and then introduced myself.  Nothing happened, but he knew my face and who I was.
  4. Which is key.  In traditional publishing I figured it was enough to simply write the book and everyone would do their job to promote it and sell it.
  5. 4. Not.
  6. 5.  his is a crowded business.  People make choices all the time.  Should they push a book from someone they don’t know or have ever met or will they favor someone who took the time and effort to fly to NY and meet them face to face?  See you at BEA in June.
  7. I had patience.  Even though the digital world is much faster than NY Publishing can handle, it still takes time.  From my initial contact with Amazon publishing to accepting a deal took 18 months.
  8. Giving a good deal and getting one.  An editor from Amazon told me flat out “We’re not giving you Eisler type money.”  He meant the advance they gave Barry Eisler who turned down half a million to go with Thomas and Mercer.  My response was:  “I want no advance.”  There was a long silence on the other end.  But we ended up with a deal.  Unlike NY, the size of your advance isn’t tied to the amount of promotion Amazon gives you.  Which is rather refreshing.
  9. I figured the back end to this deal was key.  I still do.

10. Moving ahead.  47North published Area 51: Nightstalkers, which in a way was a mistake, since the book isn’t part of the original Area 51 series. It was my mistake because it starts an entirely new series.  The second book will be out on 30 July.  Thus my old book is outselling my new book, but I figure people will get there.

11. Plus, unlike most of my NY Publishers, the people at Amazon are willing to discuss things and change.  I always say an eBook is organic.  What that means is that it can evolve.  We’re going to rebrand Nightstalkers with the focus on that, rather than Area 51.

12. The Daily Deal.  Amazon blasted the first five book in the series yesterday as the science fiction deal.  Enough said.  This is the reason I signed a contract with 47North.  The book came out on 11 Dec.  They ran a price special in the UK in January and the book hit #1 in science fiction there.  Yesterday they ran a price special and the daily deal in the US and the book hit #1.  That’s the reality of discovery.

Tomorrow I’m sure the book won’t be #1.  Fame is fleeting. Hopefully this won’t be like Napoleon pulling back from Moscow in the winter.  But my focus is always three years ahead.  We’ve got Chasing The Lost coming out in May.  Burners coming in June.  And at least three more books this year.

Nothing but good times ahead.

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  1. SK Holmesley says:

    “Hopefully this won’t be like Napoleon pulling back from Moscow in the winter.” :-) That was tough. Love the reference. Hopefully, you won’t have to leave book rights if you decide on a different course.

    A very informative article, thank you.

  2. Jen Talty says:

    I love how he says he ‘lets’ me override him.

  3. I think you make excellent points – especially about patience, the top position is fleeting, and to think three years ahead. I’ve been putting my beginning chapters on Wattpad to try to get any kind of interest on my novel that I’m planning on publishing in March. I’m trying really hard to not get wrapped up in the ranking thing they have going. In one day – actually probably even eight hours – I went from 96 in Fantasy to 388. :) I’ve been maintaining perspective, but reading your post today only solidifies that the ups and downs happen, and longevity is the name of the game. Thanks!

  4. Bill Peschel says:

    So it boils down to “1. Sell your book to Amazon.”

  5. Bob Mayer says:

    Not necessarily. There are many authors who do quite well on all platforms. I hit #2 overall on Barnes & Noble with the Jefferson Allegiance– mainly because one of the bloggers there mentioned it. There is a matter of luck involved.

  6. D.D. Scott says:

    Congrats, Bob! Awesome results!!! And thanks sooo much for sharing what it took to get there!!!

    U are totally rockin’ it, my friend!!!

    I do think it’s all about writing great books, selling a ton on your own then meeting the Amazon people face-to-face with those sales to make them pay attention and look closer. Well done!!!