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Self-Publishing on Amazon: 3 Expert Ways to Sell More Books


Ever thought about self-publishing on Amazon?

If you’re a newbie freelance writer or you’ve been writing for years, chances are pretty good you have thought about writing a book.

Everybody has a great idea for a book, right?

Maybe you want to publish a novel.

Maybe you’ve got an idea for a book to help you build your brand and authority in your niche as a freelance writer.

Or maybe you’ve got a sweet five-figure ghost-writing gig to write a book for an expert.

Is self-publishing on Amazon the way to go?

Sure, Amazon is one of the most widely used sites in the world for book sales (hard copies and ebooks). This year, an estimated 2.14 billion people are expected to make an Amazon purchase.

So do you take the “self-publishing on Amazon” route, put your book up for sale, and voilà, your book starts selling like crazy.

Ahem…it’s going to take a little more work than that. But the cool thing is that Amazon recently released some online tools to help you sell more books.

Want to learn how to sell a truckload of books?

Check out these tips for self-publishing on Amazon.

Meet freelance writer Penny Sansevieri

Sell Books: Penny Sansevieri

Penny Sansevieri

Penny Sansevieri is the founder and CEO of Author Marketing Experts, Inc.

She’s a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert.

Sansevieri teaches self-publishing at New York University. She’s the co-host of the podcast Author Success. And she was recently named a top 2019 influencer by New York Metropolitan Magazine.

Her latest book How to Sell Books by the Truckload on Amazon – 2021 Amazon Ads Powerhouse Edition was released in December 2020.

3 tips for self-publishing on Amazon

Wherever you are in your career, I’m sure Amazon plays a huge role in your daily work (and personal!) life as a source of information as well as a supplier of product.

And whether you’ve already followed the path to self publishing on Amazon, or you will in the future, Amazon has a huge effect on your success as an author.

Today, I’m happy to offer you the inside scoop on Amazon Ads, a program that Amazon launched about three years ago and that continues to evolve daily.

Ads do more than promote your book. They kick-start organic growth of your books and brand. For this reason, they can be an essential strategy in a self-published author’s book marketing and promotion plan.

If you don’t already have a book up for sale on Amazon, bookmark this page so you can refer to it when you do (I believe in you!).

If you do have a title (or two or 12!) available on the platform, get ready to dig in to the nitty gritty.

1. Discover the power of Amazon marketing

In the fall of 2018 Amazon rolled out some massive changes to their AMS (Amazon Marketing Services) dashboard, most of which have been great.

But it’s taken a bit of time to test and figure out the best process so I can share it to support your goals for self-publishing on Amazon.

So to begin a set of ads, open up your AMS dashboard and follow along. Here’s what you need to do:

Set start and end dates

Be mindful of these. Unless you’re running ads to support a specific effort like a price discount that expires on x date, you’ll want to keep the end date open.

If the ad isn’t great, you can always kill it. But you don’t want an ad to end that’s doing well, so leave it open-ended.

As you start to set it up, you’ll see under Targeting that you can choose:

  • Automatic targeting
  • Manual targeting.

I always choose Manual so I can add in my own keyword strings. Amazon’s system is good, but I’m not confident that they’ll pick the exact right keyword strings for my book.

Choose an ad format

You can opt to do a custom text ad or a standard ad.

The standard ad will just show your book. And while I was never a fan of this previously, there’s merit to experimenting with both.

Amazon also lets you do multiple books in an ad, but you can only do that if you select the “standard” option for the ad.

Evaluate default keyword bids

You’ll see some high bids in there for keywords associated with your book when you’re self-publishing on Amazon.

It’s pretty surprising when you think of paying $1.84 for “book marketing,” for example. But if you’re in the genre fiction, it’s much higher.

We manage ad campaigns for some of our romance authors, and I’m seeing $5 and $6 a click, so you’ll want to watch it closely.

TIP: One thing I’ve found is that as the Amazon system “learns” your book, the bids will change, often for the better (lower) but sometimes they’ll be higher, too. Which is why you want to watch these ads over the course of your first week, because that’s when a lot of your bid adjustments will happen.

2. Use search-engine-style strategies to rank higher

Amazon’s suggested bids for keywords and phrases are a good metric to follow, so I’d recommend going with those bids initially and then watching them closely as your ad set ages.

Why? This is because often these suggestions will change, up or down, so you’ll want to stay on top of them. Again, it’s important to watch them while Amazon “learns” your ad set.

Pay attention to keyword performance

Sometimes keyword strings will start strong and then drop off.

When that happens, I recommend raising your bid on that keyword and watching what happens.

  • It may be that the bid isn’t high enough to keep pulling in readers. Raising your keyword bid could net you more exposure, put you higher up on the book search page, or slot you as one of the first books shown in the carousel on the book page.
  • The other reason for the drop-off could be because interest in the topic has subsided. I see this a lot with trendy topics and keyword strings that mirror newsy, pop culture, or seasonally-focused books.

By the same token, if you see a keyword that’s getting clicks but no tangible sales, I’d pause it, because it means you’re wasting your money.

Keeping track of peak sales periods

We know from research that books peak in sales around the holidays, and book sales are better in winter than summer. But events like the mass quarantine of 2020 may skew that data.

In other words, while the holidays are a great time for promotion and ads, boosting them during a big national event might be great, too.

  • Big weather events have this impact as well. Super-hot days, or frigid winter weather that keep folks inside, can do the same thing for books sales as holidays.
  • Election cycles. Generally, book sales go down during election cycles. But be mindful of the fact that many people may also be pretty “done” with all the political noise out there and may want to escape into a book!

3. Boost your Amazon marketing campaigns

In the testing I’ve done, I’ve found that for genre fiction books in particular, doing ads on books that aren’t part of the Kindle Unlimited program don’t work as well as for the books in KDP Select, which are always part of this program.

A lot of fiction readers in Kindle Unlimited are getting book recommendations from these ads. And although you may not see it in direct book sales, you’ll definitely see it in page reads in Kindle Unlimited.

Books in a series, which includes multiple books about a theme, also tend to increase your overall sales.

  • For example, let’s say you write about saving money, starting a business, or parenting.
  • Having multiple books out, even if you’re only running ads for one of them, will help with your overall exposure and potentially increase sales of other books because you’re attracting more readers.

Another way to boost your Amazon ads…adding the ad keyword strings to your book page, either via your book description, or any enhanced content you can include via Amazon Author Central. If you can include a keyword or two in your subtitle, even better.

Keep in mind that your Amazon page is “spidered” much like your website is spidered by Google, for example. Spidered means:

  • Located
  • Indexed, and
  • Networked to other books and search strings consumers may pop into the Amazon search bar.

TIP: Having ad keyword strings on your book page is not only a great idea, it’s mandatory if you want to get good bounce from your ads.

Self-publish on Amazon to sell more books

If you want to skip the pitch-a-publisher step, and self-publish on Amazon, go for it. It’s a great way to build your brand, establish authority, and stand out a the writer in your niche. And with a little work, you can leverage Amazon’s platform to sell more books.

Questions about self-publishing on Amazon? Let’s discuss in the comments.

Penny C. Sansevieri is a best-selling author, teacher, and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc.

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