Tips to Sell More Books on Amazon

Since Amazon introduced the Kindle in 2007 there has been explosive growth in the number of eBooks. Virtually every book that is released these days is in electronic as well as print format and many of the older books have been converted to the Kindle format. During the early years, any eBook had the chance of being a big seller. Times have changed, now the electronic book industry is moving toward maturity and there are millions of eBooks available. The simple act of publishing a book on Amazon doesn’t necessarily promise you good sales, instead with mountains of competition authors must fight for their share of the limited number of book buyers.

Despite complaints about the lower book prices and issues with Kindle Unlimited, many authors still view Amazon as their top earner. But that does not mean there are not issues when it comes to selling books through the Amazon platform, especially for authors who do not have a huge, established following. Often it is breaking through this barrier that takes authors the most time. Going from selling one or two copies of a book to 50 or a 100 copies is a giant leap, but it is not an impossible one either. Here is a look at six ways to sell more books on Amazon.

1. Research Bestseller Keywords

By using the same words featured in best sellers in the category where you plan to add your book, you are making it easier for customers to find your selection in their searches. When a customer searches for a popular book, or they are on its page, your book is more likely to pop up higher on the search results pages. Your book may even find its way into the “Customers with Similar Searches Purchased” section.

While keywords do not work the same way on Amazon as they do on search engines such as Google, you can still use them to your advantage. For example, we can look at two titles that do not feature any subtitles. For example, Unbroken and The Nightlife Moscow. Without any subtitles, it is hard to see how or where these books would feature in search results on Amazon. Perhaps if someone searched for nightlife books or works about Moscow, they would find the second book.

However, adding subtitles can really change how these books are found on the site. For example, the updated titles are now Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption AND The Nightlife Moscow (Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Suspense). Using the World War II phrase in the first title is a fantastic way to get into a lot of people’s search results, while the words survival, resilience and redemption are also common themes one might search for when on the hunt for war books.

With the second title, adding the Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Suspense phrases makes sure readers know the themes of the book, right in the title. Writers who already have a popular following may not necessarily require such subheadings with their titles, because people are going to be curious about their books regardless. But an unknown author can benefit from adding such subheadings, because it gives readers an indication of the subject matter of the book.

In addition to having a book title and subtitle that helps direct potential readers to your book you need to choose the seven keywords Amazon allows carefully. When you publish your book on, you are allowed seven keywords (really phrases) to help customers searching for your book. Make sure the title of your book is one of the key word phrases. If you book is a biography of a famous person, then list “biography” as one of your keywords. In fictional books, it is helpful to list what genre your book falls under in the keyword section. For example, if you book is a romance in the “Clean & Wholesome” genre, make sure “romance” and “clean & Wholesome” are two of your keywords. Choosing keywords is more of an art than a science. Choosing the best seven keywords/phrases helps the Amazon search engine direct interested customers to your book.

Keyword and Category Video

2. Research Categories and Book Description

Even though you may think your book only fits into one or two categories, you may be surprised at the vast number of categories and sub-categories on the Amazon books sections. Try to find at least five or six different potential categories where you can add your book, and attempt to find at least one where you can get a bestseller stat. Authors often limit their books to the major categories, but it is really hard to get a bestseller placement in one of those sections. Amazon allow you to list your Kindle book in two categories.

For example, you may have decided to write a historical book. But adding your book exclusively to the history category may be a mistake. There are thousands and thousands of different history books on Amazon, which means placing in the bestseller category in history is almost impossible. But choosing a subsection, such as Revolutions, Military History, Vietnam War, Intelligence & Espionage, or Economic History may provide you with a better chance of being seen by potential readers.

Similarly, you want to put a lot of research into keywords you can add to your book’s description. Adding SEO-friendly keywords and phrases to the description can really get you up the ladder in terms of search results for topics that are relevant to your book. In order to find the right SEO-friendly keywords, you may have to manually search for different phrases and words related to your book’s subject. Look at the results that come up with each search, and if you find your book is similar to the items featured in these results, you can try to add those keywords into the description. But you also want to find the right balance, because you do not want the product description to appear inorganic and forced, because it may turn off readers from checking out your book.

3. Perma Free

It may sound counter intuitive, but some authors can benefit from making one or two of their books permanently free. There are many success stories of authors who wrote series of books, but made the first book available for free. Statistics show that free books sell around 100 times more than books costing money – even if the price is $0.99.

Authors who write series of books about one subject, or a collection of books that is loosely tied together based on subject matter, length or other concepts, can benefit from making one or two of their works free. Free books are usually the ones people select when they are searching for various topics, which means you have a greater chance of getting someone to land on your book’s page. And when they are on your page, they are more inclined to click on the buy button if they like the book description and know they do not have to pay anything to read the material.

Giving out all of your work for free is a bad idea, but giving readers a “preview” of your work’s subject matter and/or quality is a good way to build a following. Since Amazon does not allow you to make a book free permanently, you may have to use other platforms (such as Smashwords) in order to achieve the Perma Free status. And when you have made your book free on a permanent basis, you can use email advertisements to get word out about the free book. Sometimes burgeoning authors only need a chance to get their work in front of readers in order to grab their attention.

4. Book Reviews

While it may sound as if you are attempting to “buy” reviews, providing select readers with free copies of your book in exchange for reviews is a time-honored and very relevant strategy. To be clear, when you offer a reviewer a free book in exchange for their thoughts, you are not asking them to provide you with a favorable review.

When you see reviews of books, media or electronic products on Amazon, you may notice that many reviewers state that they were provided with a free or discounted copy of the product in exchange for their review. Some of these reviews will even put up short videos on YouTube or Amazon describing their experiences with the product.

If you are having a hard time getting reviews for your product, you may want to provide some friends, acquaintances, business associates, family members or other individuals with copies of your book for free. And you can ask these individuals to take some time out of their day to write a short review of your book on Amazon. It is often understated, but having positive reviews for your book will make a huge difference when readers come across your listing in search results.

Some experts believe that 50 is the magical number of reviews you need before Amazon starts paying attention to your book. Books with 50 or more positive reviews are supposedly placed far higher on search results for various sections and subsections, along with specific keyword searches. So if you are finding your books consistently at the bottom of search results for related keywords and topics, you may want to push more people to read your work and review it on Amazon.

No one wants to be the first person to read and review a book, unless they already know the author or the work in question. But readers are far more likely to trust a book with five or more reviews and a total of four or more stars. And giving out free copies of your book to reviewers is a great way to get your batch of reviews started.

You will find that maybe one in ten readers of your book will leave a review and this may be overly optimistic. It takes several sales of the book to get a single review.

5. Publish On a Regular Basis

It may sound like an unrealistic challenge for writers to put out a book every 90 days, but many experts have talked about the 90-Day Cliff on Amazon. What they mean by the 90-Day Cliff is that book sales are generally far lower for a particular book after 90 days of its release, especially for authors with a smaller profile. Authors who want to generate sustained sales for their body of work will try their best to get another book out on Amazon within 90 days of their previous release.

Now before you fret about the idea of writing and publishing a book within 90 days, it is important to note that your book does not have to be a huge body of work. Some authors can churn out a whole novel within 90 days, but others work on short stories or pieces in order to keep up the volume they are publishing. Some experts even claim there is a 30-day cliff, but unless you are writing extremely short stories or historical books, you should not attempt to put out a new body of work every 30 days.

6. Price vs. Volume – Find the Right Price for Your Book

Story writers who are finding it tough to sell their books on Amazon may need to think about the price they are charging. Depending on the length, content and subject matter of a book, prices can range from $0.99 to $20. But writers must think about the strategy they want to employ when they are trying to sell a book, especially if they have not had success with sales up to now. Having a higher price means you are getting more revenue from each sale, but it also means you are putting off readers who may not want to spend $5 or $10 on a short story or a book from an unknown author.

If you price your book too high only your mother will buy a copy. Check out the pricing for similar books in your genre to get an idea of an appropriate price.

Setting prices as low as $0.99 may seem scary for authors, but think of it from a mathematical point of view. If you price your book at $10, you may only attract 10 customers, which nets you $100. But if you price your book at half or a quarter of $10, you may attract substantially more readers. If you believe your works are something many people would enjoy, you may want to consider lowering the price to attract more readers – especially for your first few books. As you begin to get more people to buy your books, you will develop a following. Readers will look forward to your next installment, which means they are probably more willing to pay a higher price to enjoy your work.

Closing Thoughts

While none of these strategies are going to guarantee that your book sells, they will provide you with an avenue for improving your current sales situation on Amazon. Even one or two of these strategies should help the number of sales you are receiving, but employing all of them at the same time should give you a much needed boost.

Once you have published your book, now the work of marketing your book to make sure someone reads your book is the next step. Good Luck!

Comments 15 comments

heidithorne profile image

heidithorne 3 months ago from Chicago Area

You're right about the ebook explosion! But I had not heard of the 90-day cliff. Thanks for great info! Sharing on HP and elsewhere. Cheers!

dougwest1 profile image

dougwest1 3 months ago from Raymore, MO Author

The "90-day" cliff isn't a hard and fast rule. What I was trying to illustrate is that Amazon promotes new books by enhancing the listing status of the book and hence you get more visibility. The exact timing of this is a mystery buried inside the Amazon software. But over time, sales drop off.

B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 3 months ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

This advice seems very sensible.

When you self-publish an ebook, do you use your hubs on that topic for content?

dougwest1 profile image

dougwest1 3 months ago from Raymore, MO Author

I normally create a hub as part of the research that goes into a book. It can be a mini-book on any subject. Once I get the book complete, I'll go back and update the Hub and have it point to my book on the same topic in Amazon. It becomes a "trailer" or "teaser" for the final book.

Seafarer Mama profile image

Seafarer Mama 3 months ago from New England

Thank you for these tips, Doug. I will visit my Author's page on Amazon to see if there are any more key words I can use to up my presence on searches.

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 3 months ago from Dallas, Texas

Valuable advice to those like me who have only just begun to promote our books on Amazon. The keyword strategy is eye-opening. Thanks.

dougwest1 profile image

dougwest1 3 months ago from Raymore, MO Author

I have learned a lot about the whole self-publishing process over the last few years. Getting the book published is just the start of the process. The easy money days of Kindle publishing are over and you have to take into account the Amazon search engine and how it works. There isn't much published technical information on the search engine (at least that I can find) and on exactly how their algorithm works. This results in most of the information available on selecting keywords coming from tribal knowledge.

ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 3 months ago from New Delhi, India

A very helpful, informative hub ! People like me will be benefitted greatly by your valuable advice. Online writing, publishing and promoting needs proper understanding . Thanks for the education!

Pinning it for future reference!

dougwest1 profile image

dougwest1 3 months ago from Raymore, MO Author

Thanks. I know there is so much mis-information on the internet about self-publishing. Many people that heavily promote Kindle publishing are really just wanting to sell you a training class on the topic. I am sure there is some good training available that helps. Fortunately or unfortunately, I got my training the hard way - experience.

It takes a while to separate out the noise from real information. I just wanted to share some of my experience and help others avoid some of my costly mistakes.

Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 3 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

I've found after self-publishing three books on Amazon that the key to sales is to write a great book. OK. HOW DO YOU DO THAT? I'd be happy to read a hub on that. In the meantime, when I write, like Red Smith so famously said, "I sit down at the typewriter, open a vein, and bleed." If it doesn't sell, so be it. I don't write to make a living. I write to live. But good luck to other writers, especially if they find something that works for them. These are as good as any tips I've read. Who knows? I haven't found FaceBook or HubPages or a blog or a web site to make any difference in my sales. But when people do find me, 9 out of 10 say they love the way I write. So I live to write more. All the best to those of us who bleed on paper.

dougwest1 profile image

dougwest1 3 months ago from Raymore, MO Author

I agree. Writing is sort of sickness or compulsion??. For some reason, certain of us humans have to write things down to get it out of us. Go figure! Take care and keep writing.

Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 3 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Thanks, Doug. I hoped I didn't come across too cynical. And kudos to the great sportswriter Red Smith. Yes, plagiarism matters.

Tiga Polxin 3 months ago from Jl husain sastranegara komplek duta gardenia blok b6/2-3 Jurumudi baru Tangerang

Thanks for your tips.... Maybe I want use that tips for my affiliate partner

Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 3 months ago from Oklahoma

Great tips.

dougwest1 profile image

dougwest1 3 months ago from Raymore, MO Author

Michael: If I understand your question correctly, I normally create a hub as part of the research that goes into a book. It can be a mini-book on any subject. Once I get the book complete, I'll go back and update the Hub and have it point to my book on the same topic for sales on Amazon.

For example, my hub on Edwin Hubble points to my book on Edwin Hubble on Amazon. Hopefully, this has generated a few sales for the book.

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