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: http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=hp_14279651_create?nodeId=14279651#create

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…

Gordon Kessler

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