Have you written a book you want to sell?
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 trying 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 online today is very 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 maximise your book’s selling potential.
The book sales cycle
One misconception about book sales is that a good book will keep selling well over a long period of time.
It is rarely if ever true. Even the top bestselling books follow the long tail of book sales.
What this means is 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.
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.
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 it 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 long tail 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, simply 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 through 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.
It is imperative that you 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 to sell.
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 poor selection of images, title fonts and font colours.
You can really 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 easy, or a quick task to write a fantastic book description. In fact, some authors say it is harder 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 within your book description too, and you should do so.
Never write it as an afterthought. A short, a 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 bricks 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, the top of sales ranking charts sell 100s times more copies than books appearing at number 1,786.
So how can you get your new book listing on Amazon at the top of search results? You can do this by selecting the right categories and keywords.
Do you know that you can have more than two categories for your book?
Do you know that search keywords are phrases and not single words?
Do you know about 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.
Read more in our article on how to find keywords for Kindle ebooks.
You can find even more information in another 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 selection will help your potential book sales enormously.
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.
The longer you can keep your book listed in “Coming Soon”, the more it will be seen by buyers. 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 key search tool that many book hunters use.
The more advantage you can take of 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 on pre-order.
There are many ways you can promote your book.
Our sister site, Whizbuzz Books offers affordable book promotion for one year. It is one ideal way to start your promotion on 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, set 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 wrong, you will severely reduce your chances of seeing your book being sold on Amazon.
Most importantly, make sure you get all four right well before you publish.
I started my working life as a lithographer and spent over 30 years in the printing and publishing business.
Originally from Australia, I moved to Switzerland 20 years ago. My days are spent teaching English, writing and wrestling with technology while enjoying my glorious view of Lake Geneva and the Alps.
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