How To Sell Books On Amazon – The Four Essential Elements

help you sell books on Amazon

Have you written a book you want to know how to sell books on Amazon?

You have? Well, you are probably very excited about the prospect of becoming a published author, and rightly so.

But before you jump into self-publishing and try to start selling your book, sit back and take a deep breath.

You have some work to do before you publish that will help sell books on Amazon after your book is released.

Selling books on Amazon is competitive

Every year more and more authors are publishing books and ebooks on Amazon, Apple, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble.

By some estimates, a new title is published every one minute and forty-five seconds on Amazon KDP alone.

Many of these thousands of titles are never going to succeed at selling on Amazon.

Either because the writing standard is poor, the cover is homemade, or in a lot of cases nowadays, many are merely copies of public domain books.

While there are millions of books listed on Amazon, only a small proportion will start selling.

You want to give your new book its best chance of success. But you will need to understand how book sales work and how to maximize your book’s selling potential.


You need early book sales

One misconception about book sales is that a good book will keep selling well over a long period.

It is rarely, if ever true. Even the top bestselling books follow the long tail of book sales.

This means that any new book will sell the most number of copies in the first few weeks or perhaps months.

After that time, sales will fall dramatically and enter the long tail cycle. Sales will still happen, but at a much, much lower volume.

Sales Volume

You only need to think about a smash hit book like 50 Shades of Grey to understand the formula in the image above.

It was a huge bestseller for months, but now? It’s yesterday’s news.

Once you know how the selling cycle of a new book works, you can start to understand why it is so important to get all the basics right well before you publish.


Don’t rush to publish

Many new self-publishing authors rush way too fast into getting their books for sale online.

Then, after they publish, they discover what they did wrong.

What follows is a long process of fixing all the problems.

During the time it takes to get a decent new cover, correct all the typos and spelling mistakes in the text and relist the book in a more appropriate genre, they have missed out on the best time to sell their new book.

Wasting the first weeks or months fixing a poorly published book usually means that the book will never recover.

If it does, the best hope is to attract weak backlist sales because it failed and missed out on sales during the new release period.

However, if you can get everything right before you publish and your book goes on sale on Amazon, you will be improving your chances of success enormously.

Getting everything right

There are so many facets to preparing a book and planning to publish it.

I will get to my four essentials shortly. But before that, it is worth quickly mentioning a few of the preliminary steps in the process.

If you haven’t done so, you will need to open an Amazon account for Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

If you already have an Amazon account, enter your same login details to set up KDP. You will also need to add your bank account details so you can get paid.

If you live outside the US or UK and you are planning to sell on Amazon, you will need to provide your international tax information.

It can take some time, and you could need to contact KDP customer service for assistance, so start on it well before you publish.

If you have your books for sale on Amazon without completing your tax information, you will lose 30% of your earnings in withholding tax.

Another consideration for international authors is the shipping method and shipping costs for print-on-demand paperbacks.

It can be quite expensive to pack and ship the books to some countries. In this case, it might be worth selling only Kindle ebooks.

If you are getting your books printed by a publisher and not Amazon, you will need to arrange to send your books to an Amazon fulfillment center. You will need to open a professional fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) seller account.

Once you register as an Amazon seller, you can set the listed price of your physical books in readiness to have your books listed for sale and delivery by Amazon.

When you have your account ready, you can concentrate on preparing your book.

The longest stage in publishing a book is making 100% sure that your manuscript is perfect. Never rush this process.

You should complete all the steps, from basic correction to proofreading.

Once you are sure it is perfect, you can start on the four essential elements that will help your book in its new release stage of the sales cycle and beyond.


The four essentials you need to sell books on Amazon

You can do 100 things right, but if you get one of the following four fundamentals wrong, your book will struggle to sell.

You must make sure you can tick all four of these boxes before you even think about publishing.

Get one of the four items wrong, and you will have books for sale, but you will limit your chances of selling your books on Amazon.

You can make beginner mistakes in other areas and maybe get away with them.

But that is not the case with the four bedrocks of selling books.

Get these right, and you will have a much better chance of succeeding with your book.


1. Your book cover must be WOW!

Nothing puts off potential book buyers more than a weak, low-resolution, and poorly designed book cover.

There are thousands of books for sale online that have terrible, awful, and downright dreadful covers.

Very often, it is due to the poor selection of images, title fonts, and font colors.

You can make your book stand out in the crowd if you have a cover that is professional, high-resolution, eye-catching, and designed specifically to appeal to readers of your genre.

For book buyers, the first time they will see your book cover will probably be in a small thumbnail image.

While your cover might look fine in full size, it does not mean it will work well in small dimensions.

If you want your book to shine and attract instant attention, always, always, always get a professional book cover designer to help you.


2. Your book description must HOOK!

It is not an easy or quick task to write a fantastic book description. In fact, some authors say it is more challenging than writing a book.

Second, only to your book cover, your book description is what will make a reader decide to buy your book or not.

It is your sales pitch, and you only get one chance to convince a buyer.

Writing a description is definitely not about merely summarising your story in a couple of quick sentences.

It is about telling a reader all the fantastic reasons why they will absolutely love your story and why they will just have to buy it.

Don’t forget that you can include pre-release book reviews in your book description too, and you should do so.

Never write it as an afterthought. A short, poor book description can deter readers. So plan it, draft it, re-draft it, craft it and perfect it.

A good starting point is to imagine someone asking you this question.

“Tell me, why would I want to read your book?”


3. Position your book where buyers can SEE IT!

In a brick-and-mortar bookstore, books that are at the front of the store sell a lot more than books at the back on dusty shelves.

It is the same in an online bookstore.

Titles that appear at the top of search results, and even better, at the top of sales ranking charts, sell 100’s times more copies than books appearing at number 1,786.

How can you get your new book listed on Amazon at the top of search results? You can do this by selecting the right categories and keywords.

Are you aware that you can have more than two categories for your book?

Did you know that search keywords are phrases and not single words?

Do you understand keyword search volume and keyword difficulty?

When you can answer yes to these three questions, you are ready to start your category and keyword research.

Get it right, and you can get your book listings to the top of search results, which like a bookstore, is at the front of the store.

You can find more information in our article about Amazon keywords and categories for books.

There are many ways to do your Amazon keyword research and create a listing of potential keywords. Some methods are free, and others use paid software.

But there is no escaping the fact that wise selections will help you to sell books on Amazon.


4. You have to promote your book NOW!

The best time to start promoting your book is before you start writing it. In other words, it is never too soon.

Ideally, when you get close to publishing, you should think about placing your book on pre-order for a month. It serves two vital and beneficial purposes.

One is that you can hope to attract pre-order sales.

Every sale you can get before you release your book for sale will help your initial sales rank.

If you can get 5, 10, 50, 100, or 500 pre-order sales, your rank will skyrocket on day one.

A high rank means more visibility and definitely more sales.

The other reason is that your book will be in one of the most popular search tools on Amazon for much longer.

In the middle of the left-hand side menu on Amazon, you can see this quick search box.

new releases

The longer you can keep your book listed in “Coming Soon,” the more buyers will see it.

Once you release your book for sale, you then have 30 days, and to a lesser extent, 90 days, to take full advantage of this crucial search tool that many book hunters use.

The more advantage you can take from the pre-release and early release period, the better.

As the long tail sales chart earlier shows, the first few weeks is when you have the best chance to get the highest volume of sales.

You should plan your book promotion well before you publish and start your active promotion on social media as soon as your book is available for pre-order.

There are many ways you can promote your book.

Start your promotion before pre-order and continue during the first vital months.


There are many ways you can avoid self-publishing problems. Always look to improve your book and your chances of successfully selling it on Amazon.

To make your book worth buying, you need to make it worth selling.

The only way you can do this is by bringing a quality product to market, setting the price right, and then giving it the best exposure you can possibly manage.

When you get the four basic essentials right and as close to perfect as possible, you will be on top of the game and the competition.

But if you get any one of these four elements wrong, you will severely reduce your chances of seeing your book selling on Amazon.

Most importantly, make sure you get all four right well before you publish.


Related reading: Self-Publishing: Expectations vs Reality For New Authors

Derek Haines

A Cambridge CELTA English teacher and author with a passion for writing and all forms of publishing. My days are spent writing and blogging, as well as testing and taming new technology.

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4 thoughts on “How To Sell Books On Amazon – The Four Essential Elements

  • Avatar for Emma
    July 5, 2019 at 1:45 am

    I found your article very informative and helpful, and then I looked at more of your site, and was very impressed. You have a lot of excellent content, providing me with a lot of interesting reading. I am trying to learn how to promote my e book which I put on (kindle) titled “on line dating, The Authoritative Guide”.
    It is about all the hard lessons, learned the hard way as nobody was writing about the learning curves which I and I know others needed.
    But then the hard part, how to get people to find it!
    Thanks again, I will read many of your excellent articles. Best always, Emma

    • Avatar for Derek Haines
      July 5, 2019 at 11:12 am

      I’m happy to hear you find our articles of interest. Good luck with your publishing journey, Emma.

  • Avatar for Lynn P. Penner
    June 17, 2019 at 4:45 pm

    It’s a long story, but after Randal Andrews (who is Jay Brown) of JaCol Publishing took me from a traditional publisher by canceling my contract and leaving me in the middle of edits and no publisher. I felt emotional and I became a grand prey for this independent publisher who charges for all book production fees. He also overcharged for printed and delivered books. Worse yet, he took the money I sent to open Amazon and Ingram accounts and locked this accounts in his name—also listing his name under the copyright of my book. My publishing/editing contract was apparently not the publishing contract which I received after being published as I said I never received what another author showed me of her own. This contract states he shall take 50% of Amazon sales—after collecting cash for book production—and he takes 100% of Amazon sales if I buy books to sell. He was not truthful about my sales., sending me a spreadsheet with two sales when nine people had sent me screenshots of their Amazon purchases. He harassed me to give him 50% of my private sales. I left his company and have been fighting with Amazon to remove my title. Putting my copyright under his name has made it difficult. He has a Writers World group on Facebook. He has an editing service listed, ‘Randall Andrews’ Editing Service, and this is a false name. He collects money through PayPal is becomes angry after asking for money and not getting it the same day. No invoices, no receipts. Writes Word (WW) is where he finds authors who are looking forward to publishing their first book. He treats authors poorly unless they don’t question him and just comply with his opinion and ways. Stay clear,, he makes it sound so good, and he’ll spend time chatting with authors to appear friendly and fair.

  • Avatar for Derek Knowles
    May 6, 2019 at 2:00 am

    An excellent insight into starting a novel…

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