It's been two month's since I launched my new book SMART FOCUS Book 1: How to Stay S.M.A.R.T. and Achieve Your Most Important Goals One Step at a Time. Today, I'll share more about the two amazing resources I mentioned in my previous blog post. I'll also be discussing what's currently working and the marketing strategies I'm experimenting with in my ongoing quest to achieve Amazon best sellers status—complete with screenshots!
The Book Launch Strategies I Used for SMART FOCUS Book 1
At the beginning of 2016, back when I first began writing and dissecting the SMART FOCUS series, I spent much of my time researching marketing strategies and how to make my book one of the Amazon best sellers. During this phase of the publishing process, I discovered two main resources which proved to be the launchpad that helped me climb the Top 100 Amazon Kindle Free Ebook rankings. (To read more about this case study of sorts, check out my previous post.)
The first invaluable resource I discovered was a book by an guy who actually hated writing, yet was able to successfully achieve Amazon best sellers status not once but several times. I discovered this book while scouring Amazon information on self-publishing. The cover was compelling and the advice from the blurb seemed applicable, especially considering the evidence of his other bestselling books.
One of the best things about this resource (and the next one, which I'll mention soon) is the fact that the author was willing to give it away absolutely free! Now, I'll show you how this particular free offer process worked.
When I used the "Look inside" preview feature Amazon offers for most of its books, I noticed that, at the very beginning of his book, the author had included a complimentary audio version at no extra cost. I was amazed at the thought of giving away such a valuable addition, but I went to the link provided and downloaded the free audiobook anyway.
Using Amazon's "Look inside" feature can yield you some free goodies before you buy the book!
For the next week, I devoured the book aurally, doting on every word. However, I found that—as with so many other non-fiction books—it was hard to grasp the key concepts the author conveyed of becoming one of the Amazon best sellers without an actual visual reference. So, since I truly enjoyed the free content I received, I signed up for the author's email newsletter and received another amazing surprise.
When I opened the welcome email he had sent, I soon discovered he had gifted the pdf version of the same book to me for free; I didn't even have to buy the ebook on Amazon! Now that's what I call over-delivering!
Last November, just before I initially launched SMART FOCUS Book 1: How to Stay S.M.A.R.T. and Achieve Your Most Important Goals One Step at a Time, I once again read and listened to the book, learning the Amazon best sellers strategies this bestselling author had personally tried and tested. He had done all the work for me, weeding out what had worked for him and what hadn't, including some interesting "hacks" about Amazon's publishing process (pricing, description, keywords and categories, etc.). I'm sure you're salivating for this amazing resource by now, so here you go.
The book is entitled Book Launch, and the bestselling author's name is Chandler Bolt. But before you click the link to the book, read this...
Note: I'll be listing the correct process of how you can get this (and the next amazing resource) just the way I did—absolutely free—in the Featured Resources section at the end of this blog post, so stay tuned for that. For now, read on to see the second invaluable resource that originally helped me rise through the Top 100 Free Ebook rankings on the Amazon best sellers lists.
I actually discovered this next resource before listening to Book Launch. In the Indie Author Self-Publishing world, many of the most successful authors I follow online are from the UK. Cool English accents aside, their knack for know-how when it comes to sailing up the Amazon best sellers charts is uncanny!
The specific Brit I'll be referring to for this next amazing resource is Nick Stephenson. Similar to Chandler's Book Launch, Nick also offers some insightful free content about achieving Amazon best sellers status—a totally free, three-video course, to be more specific—at the beginning of one of his books in particular about attracting readers to your content.
Nick really knows his stuff. He's not just pulling things out of thin air when it comes to his marketing ideas. The tips he offers in his free video course on how to become one of the Amazon best sellers will tell help you with everything from gaining a reader following to picking Amazon Kindle categories and keywords to building your own author platform. All for the ultra-low—insane—price of FREE! If that sounds too good to be true, keep reading.
The book I'm referring to—where you can once again use the power of the "Look inside" feature from Amazon to get access to Nick's free video course—is Reader Magnets. (By the way, Reader Magnets is a perma-free ebook Nick offers on Amazon, so instead of using the "Look inside" feature, you can just download the ebook for free instead on your preferred e-reading device! Once again, refer to the Featured Resources below after you finish reading this blog post for the correct process to get these amazing resources.)
When comparing these two awesome FREE resources, I would have to say Nick's tips were responsible for most of the back-end work I did for SMART FOCUS Book 1 within Amazon. This back-end work deals mainly with picking the correct categories and keywords to help you soar up in the Amazon best sellers rankings, accounting for approximately 80% of my own personal results within the first 30 days of launch my book.
On the other hand, Chandler's tips accounted for the remaining 20% of my results, mainly concerning the pricing strategies he suggested relating to the intricate timing framework which the Amazon best sellers rankings are built upon. For instance, at first I had no idea it was important to understand when to make changes to your book's price, but according to Book Launch Amazon can take anywhere from 6-8 hours before they reflect these (or similar) changes on your book; valuable foreknowledge I wouldn't have been fortunate enough to utilize had it not been for Book Launch.
Note: The two resources I've been referring to deal mainly with Kindle/ebook sales on Amazon (or KDP, short for Kindle Direct Publishing), which generally tend to outsell print copies. CreateSpace (for setting up print-on-demand versions of your books), however, is another matter entirely but has similar time-frame windows as well.
What I'll Be Doing Differently for Future Books in the Series
Though these two giants in their fields of book sales and marketing (Chandler and Nick) are absolutely correct in their findings, results may vary, obviously. Consequently, after the first 30 days of my initial launch came to an end, and now that I'm going into my third month as a self-published author, I can see there are many more ideas and Amazon best sellers strategies to experiment with for boosting the sales of SMART FOCUS Book 1.
Here are some Amazon best sellers strategies, for example, that I'm considering in the coming months. Several of which I've already implemented to test for better results.
When I first started researching categories for my book, I learned you generally want to pick them based on other books like yours in similar categories with low competition, high-sales. In other words, when choosing categories make sure to find the ones that have low volumes of books for sale in those categories (ideally in the hundreds) but also show high reviews and low-ranking numbers on Amazon (shown in the Product Details section of each book's Amazon page, as seen in the above image for my book on Day 1 of launch).
Note: The rankings I refer to represent, once again, Kindle ebook sales and not paperback sales. Kindle ebook sales have higher royalties; plus, ebooks are generally more popular than paperback versions and are therefore more lucrative.
These factors combined account for high sales and low competition, but not so low that people won't be able to find your book as well within those categories. (Don't worry if none of this makes sense now; when you check out the featured resources listed at the end of this post, everything will become much clearer.)
As you can see in the above screenshots, the categories I originally picked for my book (highlighted in orange) are fairly high in competition. I don't know how I missed this when I initially picked them; maybe the numbers were lower then, I don't know. As a result of catching this blunder, however, I've been switching up my categories every three weeks or so, based on the above advice about category competition, especially when there's no sign of sales anywhere in sight.
My hope is that this change will make it easier to rank for higher sales and rankings in Amazon best sellers categories. Sadly, in my case at least, it seems that when a book changes from free to paid—even if it's only .99 cents—it's much harder for it to get noticed. I have to keep in mind, though, that so far I'm an unknown author with only one book review to date, both factors which may take a while to overcome.
From what I've heard from other successful Indie authors who are Amazon best sellers, the best way to sell your first book in a series is to write the next one. If nothing else, at least I'm hard at work doing that very thing! And hey, even J.K. Rowling had to start somewhere!
The other side of the categories coin is keywords. Personally, I've kept mine mostly same as when I originally uploaded my book, only changing one or two keywords depending on what categories I want to best represent my book. For example, in SMART FOCUS Book 1, I wrote quite a bit about an example goal I myself deeply care about: writing. More specifically, the subject of How to Write a Novel. So, very recently I decided to magnify that particular aspect of my book by choosing a keyword of the same phrase and changing one of the categories to Writing Skills Reference.
I'm not very keen on messing with my keywords as much as my categories for the simple reason that I spent quite a lot of time researching which seven keywords I should choose (Amazon only allows authors to use up to seven keywords for their books). This, and the fact that researching two new categories to experiment with is much easier than redoing all the research for seven completely new keywords; it's just basic math and common sense. Plus (if you're familiar with the popular 80/20 rule of doing business) these two categories may account for 80% of my success, while the seven keywords may be no more than 20%, at least initially.
The next strategy I'm definitely considering as a result of all I've learned is assembling a launch team. This basically consists of recruiting beta readers to whom I'll send out advanced reader copies (ARCs) of my books in order to get honest feedback and reviews before the books are actually released (aka launched) to the public. It's a sort of extra catch-all precaution in addition to the already enormous amounts self-editing and professional editing performed on a book before publishing.
As of right now, the mailing list I run for my potential readers is pretty slim, but at least there are a few on there who have expressed interest in reading my work, some of which actually grabbed a copy of SMART FOCUS Book 1 during the free promo launch. The good news, though, is that—yet another great idea from the two resources mentioned above—before publishing, I included a sign-up page at the back of the book so I could communicate with my readers about updates on future book releases.
Doing the work takes time, but the way I see it the time is going to pass anyway.
This strategy alone will help me accumulate more potential beta readers while I'm hard at work on the rest of the series—and other writing ventures. Of the readers who subscribe to my mailing list, I'll be able to reach out to any that express additional interest in becoming part of my launch team. These readers will receive the ARCs mentioned above and will, in effect, be helping me boost my author platform by providing honest reviews and feedback before my books even release! This will give my books social proof, which will in turn help my books get noticed and climb the Amazon best sellers rankings.
Once I receive the results back from my beta readers on the remaining two books in the SMART FOCUS series, I'll be able to put in the final touches before sending them off to the "digital presses." This entire process takes time, but the way I see it the time is going to pass anyway; I might as well take advantage of it and do the work now so I'll have something to show for it when I'm done.
The third Amazon best sellers strategy I want to implement is to start connecting more with readers of genres in which I've published and hope to publish. One thing I've learned along this journey is that instead of a sell/buy mindset, authorpreneurs like myself should focus more on connecting with our audiences. Then, when the time comes that our services are actually needed, our fans will know we're proficient in our areas of expertise and will be more than glad to enlist our services via a purchased book, a how-to course, etc. A bond of trust is developed, relationships are forged; it's a win-win for everybody.
Some of the places I'm considering for connecting with potential readers include Wattpad (which I'm pretty active on anyway, but I'll need to increase my engagement there since I've been lax due to working on my SMART FOCUS books); KBoards, a forum dedicated solely to helping authors who publish on the Kindle platform; and social media, mainly in the form of a much wider audience base such as various Groups pages on Facebook, Google Plus, and Twitter.
Being genuine is a BIG relationship builder which usually leads to sales as a bonus.
It's almost like learning to walk again in regards to business. Most of my time has been spent on "buy my this" and "check out my that" that I haven't really taken the time to form real relationships with my customers. The good news in this case is that I do have one resource already in place where I've been producing free content for years, just for the pure joy of helping others and being creative: YouTube.
My YouTube channel is solely for the purpose of enjoying the creative process. And while there are various Calls to Action for my products, that's all on the back-end, in the Description/Show More area of each video. The main focus of my YouTube content is teaching others what I've learned through my musical and entrepreneurial journeys.
This is great because I enjoy teaching others what I've learned, and it gives me an outlet to express myself creatively, which ultimately comes across to my audience that I'm just an ordinary person who loves what I do, most likely including activities they enjoy as well. Being genuine is a BIG relationship builder which usually leads to sales as a bonus; it doesn't serve as the main focus; rather, a byproduct of that focus.
And the final strategy I'm debating on is whether I should keep SMART FOCUS Book 1 enlisted in KDP Select or not, or if I should try the program with final two books in the series. With KDP Select, you basically forfeit your rights to publish the digital ebook version of your book on any platforms other than Amazon for a period of 90 consecutive days. This includes digital distribution channels such as Smashwords, Draft2Digital, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, etc.
As of this writing (and revision), I'm not seeing much of an impact on my Amazon best sellers rankings from KDP Select on the paid rankings for SMART FOCUS Book 1. I know there are certain benefits—mainly the promotional deals and enrolling my book in Kindle Unlimited, which gives me royalties based on pages read from digital "borrows" of my book on Amazon—but as far as getting my book noticed by subscribers to Kindle Unlimited or the "Also Bought," "Related Items," and similar lists on Amazon, I'm just not seeing the results I would like to.
After only the first 30 days, I couldn't say if KDP Select really made a difference; Now, after a little over 60 days—with less than 30 days to go before I can either opt out of the program or sign up for another 90-day period—I can honestly say that, for me at least, while KDP Select might have made a small impact at the first, it wasn't significant enough over the long-term for me to consider enrolling again once my initial 90 days are up. In fact, I believe my keyword and category strategies have made more of an impact on my overall paid rankings than KDP Select.
The Most Important Strategy of All
Regardless of the benefits of KDP Select, one thing I can't do in the program is change the price of my book to perma-free. In order to do so, I have to publish the book on other digital platforms as free then notify Amazon; they will then, in turn, immediately price-match my first book for free. However, I'm stuck with nowhere else to list the ebook unless I opt out of KDP Select, which I can't do until my 90 day enrollment period is up.
And what about perma-free, anyway? If my book is perma-free, won't I lose some sales? In the short-term, yes; at first, yes, but I'll be working toward developing that all-important email list I mentioned earlier, which further serves to help me build my readership and, ultimately, my writing empire. You see, as an Amazon best sellers strategy, a perma-free (or permanently free) product acts as a loss-leader for the rest of my books in the series. I lose sales on one book in exchange for something more valuable: readers for all the rest of my books. Those are my true fans who actually want to sign up to my mailing list to receive updates about my books and stories; and I can control that myself, without the help of KDP Select.
I suppose the main thing about KDP Select is that time will tell—approximately 30 more days to be exact—whether or not it's truly been an effective marketing strategy (my bet is on not). As with most of these Amazon best sellers strategies, lots of testing is required. You can't just rely on any random categories, keywords, pricing, or special programs for your book's success. You also have to decide whether or not you're willing to give up your rights to control the distribution of your books to other companies like Amazon, in exchange for what may be mediocre benefits at best, instead of being able to do what you want with them how you want.
Above all, patience is the key to success. And one of the definitions of patience is "long-suffering," which it sometimes feels like you're going through when putting in all those writing, editing, revising, publishing, and marketing hours. In the end, all the above Amazon best sellers strategies I've mentioned—including those listed in the two main resources I've consulted throughout this journey to publication—are just that: strategies.
They're not the actual writing of the books, which is the most important strategy of all, really: getting the words down. Without that, no amount of marketing savvy will work. After all, you can't sell your book unless you write it first.
Patience is the key to success, and one of the definitions of patience is "long-suffering."
CHECK OUT MY BOOKS...
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Book Launch (audiobook)
And now for the promised featured resources you've been patiently awaiting.
First up is Book Launch by Chandler Bolt. To get the free audiobook version as seen above in the "Look inside" preview, here is the correct link to click on. It's the book in its entirety, unabridged and full of great tips on outlining, writing, publishing, and marketing your book.
If you're interested in getting a copy of the ebook as well, click here.
Reader Magnets (video course)
Next up is Nick Stephenson's Reader Magnets, which includes a free three-video course with some of the best ideas and insights on ranking high in the Amazon best sellers categories. Click here for more information about Nick's free video course as seen in above in the "Look inside" preview.
While you're at it, why not just download Reader Magnets, Nick's perma-free book by clicking here.
Bonus Resource (blog post)
Here's a surprise for you! Another great resource I read daily while keeping tabs on my Amazon best sellers rankings was a blog post by Tyler Basu entitled "The Book Launch Strategy Of A #1 Amazon Bestseller." It's very similar to Chandler's strategies in Book Launch, so it's great to know that others are using similar strategies and achieving success. Click here to read Tyler's blog post.
Question: What strategies are you using to help your book soar up the Amazon best sellers charts?
Leave a comment below and tell us all about it.