Eve Lynch ~
When Kindle launched in 2007, it revolutionized the publishing world. Gone were the days of bringing an extra bag for your paperbacks, be it on holiday or on your way to work. Readers could own a virtual library the size of a notebook. And with the simultaneous launch of Kindle Direct Publishing, anyone could publish an ebook in a matter of hours, without paying a cent.
One of the advantages of KDP, though it may not always seem that way, is that it doesn’t have a merchandising team. Instead of employing humans, who can get star-struck by famous authors and sentimental about their favourite books, Amazon lets cold-hearted algorithms decide which titles to promote.
Essentially, this means that unknown indie authors have as much chance of reaching the top as the biggest names in the business — so long as you’re able to get people to land on your book’s page and press that ‘buy’ button! This may sound like a tall order, but follow these four simple steps and you’ll be well on your way to KDP success.
1. Familiarize yourself with KDP
If you’re considering self-publishing on Amazon then you should absolutely spend some time familiarizing yourself with KDP. Of course, having made your way here, you’re probably doing something right already. But you don’t want to just learn how to put together product and author pages; getting a grasp on the logistics is equally important.
For example, have you checked out the royalty rates? KDP offers 70% royalties on a book priced between $2.99-$9.99, but if your price falls outside that range, it’ll drop to 35%. This shouldn’t be a problem, but in some cases — if you’re selling a box set, say, or a small chapbook — it’s information worth knowing!
2. Attract readers to your book
When you’re trying to sell your book, it isn’t enough to have a gripping plotline and nuanced characters (though it’s an excellent place to start!). There are a few key selling tools that you can’t afford to dial in when listing your book on Amazon:
- Title: Choose a title that is unique but memorable. Single words like Atonement or Dune can be very effective, but you might also try wordplay: Of Mice and Men, for example, or Pride and Prejudice. Poetic titles like The Fault in Our Stars also aren’t easily forgotten.
- Book Description: Grab the reader’s attention with an evocative tagline or a punchy hook. Or, if you’ve already got reviews and sales stats to speak of, you can’t go wrong with a pull quote. Follow with a brief, engaging summary, giving readers a sense of themes and genre. Wrap up with a point of intrigue: a comp title or a question.
- Categories: Amazon’s algorithms use categories to connect similar titles in order to make recommendations to users. So keeping yours highly relevant is crucial for your discoverability! Amazon uses a ‘category tree’ (e.g. Fiction > Thrillers > Supernatural) which means you can be pretty specific. You also get to choose two, if your book fits into more than one category, or even more if you reach out to KDP directly.
- Keywords: The simplest way to find the right keywords is to play around with the Amazon search function. Choose words you would search to find your own book and see which ones result in successful titles similar to yours. Amazon lets you select seven keywords, so be as specific as possible. And remember: you can cast your net wider by choosing words that don’t appear in your title and description.
- Cover: No matter how many times we’re told, we can’t help but judge a book by its cover. So take a good look at yours: Does it make for a nice thumbnail? Is it eye-catching? Does it look like the bestsellers in your genre? Though Amazon has a Cover Creator tool, I highly recommend putting more time and resources into it to make sure it looks as good as these.
3. Optimize your Author Central Account
As well as giving readers a place to scroll through your titles, your Amazon Author Central page is where you’ll build your author brand. It’s basically a one-stop digital storefront for you and your books; you want it to be engaging, informative, and professional-looking.
When it comes to author bios, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula. However, once again, your opening line should (say it with me!) grab the reader’s attention. You could include a description of your book’s themes, a statement of your credentials, or simply summarize your profile. Including photos that relate to your book or your brand, and maybe even videos or blog posts, can also be a great way to add personality to your page.
Using your Amazon Author Central Account, you can also add editorial reviews to your book’s product page. Positive recommendations have as much influence over readers as a book’s cover and blurb. It goes without saying that you should choose the most impressive review snippets you can find. If your book has received praise from a recognized critic, a notable author, or a popular review blog, you’re golden. But don’t fret if you haven’t reached those heights of fame (yet), as positive reader reviews can also work wonders.
L J Ross is a great example of an author getting things right:
4. Boost your book’s visibility
As when teaching a child to swim, you can’t just push your book into the deep end and hope for the best. Luckily, KDP provides authors with a marketing toolkit to help them reach their target audience. In addition to paid programs that feature your book on the pages of similar titles, Amazon offers free promotional options through KDP Select.
- Kindle Unlimited: Amazon’s extremely popular ‘Netflix for books’ service that allows subscribers to read as many e-books as they like for $9.99 a month. Because of the ease with which readers can browse through a seemingly unlimited number of titles from a vast variety of authors, KU has become a go-to for readers of many genres. For self-publishing authors in these genres (romance, fantasy, etc.), this means that it’s almost impossible to rank highly on Amazon without listing your book on KU.
- Kindle Free Promotions and Countdown Deals: By making your book available for free five days out of every three months, you can give your sales consistent boosts that Amazon’s data science magic will reward. Similarly, a week-long pricedrop will get you a promotion on the ‘deals’ section of the Kindle store, promising a turbo-charged boost of visibility.
The elephant in the room is that enrolling in KDP Select means you can only sell your ebook through the Kindle store. You are effectively entering into a committed relationship. But this is a relationship with a testing period: after 90 days you can either get out quick through the bathroom window, or auto-renew for another 90-day commitment.
I would say, however, that once you’ve made your decision it’s best to stick with it. So, we’ve made it full circle back to the very first step: get to know KDP before you put all your eggs in their basket!
— Eve Lynch
Eve Lynch is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors with the world’s best publishing resources and professionals. In her spare time, Eve enjoys travelling with friends and reading literary fiction, so she’s often on the lookout for scenic new places to sit down with a book — or do a little writing of her own!