A few years ago, one of our publishing clients was launching his book. He’d planned to do the official announcement at an event where he’d be sharing his story with 300 people, and wanted to be able to direct them to Amazon as part of a bestseller campaign.
Unfortunately our former distributor dropped the ball. The book got lost in their queue, and it wasn’t live in time for the event.
Later when I was speaking to the client about this, he sighed about the lost opportunity. You see, a book marketing ‘expert’ had told him that the best time to do an Amazon bestseller campaign is during the first 30 days after the book is released, as Amazon’s algorithms give the book a boost during that period.
His understanding from this was that if you didn’t do an Amazon campaign within 30 days of your book’s release date, there was no value in doing one at all. It would be impossible to hit the lists.
So he never ran the campaign and never actively promoted his book on Amazon. While I can’t comment on the number of physical books he sells from his website (as he prints those independently), what I can comment on is his sales results via our retailer network.
On Amazon, he sells between one and four books a month.
If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know that most entrepreneurial authors aren’t focused on book sales – their priority is using their books to grow their businesses. However, marketing your book is an opportunity to get it in front of more potential clients, so why wouldn’t you?
So, should this author have done an Amazon bestseller campaign, even if it was more than 30 days after the book had been released? Or would it have been a waste of time and money? And would it have made an impact on his long-term book sales?
Read on to find out.
Does Amazon’s search algorithm rank new books higher?
Before we get into the specifics on how Amazon bestseller campaigns work let’s look at the idea of Amazon’s search algorithm boosting new books for the first 30 days.
Amazon’s search algorithm, A9, has a simple goal: to sell more products to more buyers. This means that when a buyer makes a search on Amazon, Amazon wants to show them a list of the products they will be most likely to buy.
Amazon determines which of these products are most ‘buyable’ based on relevancy, performance and reviews.
Relevancy: Does your book address a reader’s needs?
Relevancy is simply how relevant is a product, or book, is to a user’s search. Amazon figures out how relevant a product is based on the information included in the product’s title and description.
For a book, the title of your Amazon listing will usually be your book’s title and subtitle, which is why it’s far more important to choose a title that accurately describes what your book is about, and the benefits your reader will experience, rather than something that’s purely creative. If you desperately want to use a creative title, then just pair it with a descriptive subtitle.
The description of your book is where you can get a bit more creative. Here you can describe what is covered in your book in detail, including the main topics you cover as well as the main takeaways for your readers.
You can also share who those readers are – if your book is targeted at entrepreneurs, or aspiring property developers, or professionals approaching retirement, or stay-at-home mums, then say so.
Performance: How many people click on your listing and buy your book?
Performance is simply how your book performs once the relevant audience sees it. When Amazon returns a list of books in response to a search about your topic, do shoppers click on your book’s link, or do they go elsewhere?
If they click on your book, do they send a free sample to their kindle, do they add it to their cart or (ideally) do they buy it?
If people aren’t clicking on your book’s listing in Amazon’s search results, and they aren’t buying it once they click on your book’s page, that’s a signal to Amazon that people who performed that search aren’t interested in your book. And, because Amazon’s goal is to sell more products to more people, that means your listing will appear lower in the ranks over time, and products that do sell will get pushed up.
What can you do in this area? Here are a handful of points to consider:
- Visual appeal – Image: Do you have a professional image of your book’s front cover in your Amazon listing? Some people will use a 3D image of their book, or even the full cover wrap (so front cover, back cover and spine). If you look at all of the big publishers, though, they all use flat images of a book’s front cover. So stick to what works here.
- Visual appeal – Text: Is the description text attractive? Is it broken into paragraphs and bullet points, or is it just a single block of text? If text is visually unappealing, readers are less likely to read it and, therefore, less likely to be sold on your book.
- Sales pitch – Text: If the text looks good, the next step to consider is whether it’s compelling. Does it clearly explain who the book is for and what it will do for them? If you teach a 7-step process, do you just share the names of the steps, or do you share the benefits readers will experience once they implement them?
- Sales pitch – Reviews: We’re all more likely to buy products with positive (or even mixed) reviews than products with no reviews. Yet many authors put their books up on Amazon and hope the reviews will magically appear by themselves. Soliciting reviews is an essential step to making your book sellable – find out how in my guide to getting 25+ Amazon reviews for your book.
- Price – paperback: Finally, consider whether the price of your book is appropriate. I know that you’ve written an awesome book that will give your readers a tonne of value, and you don’t want to devalue your knowledge or expertise. But if you’re pricing your paperback at $64.95, no one will ever buy it (the only exception is if you’ve written a textbook that is on a university course list, in which case your readers have no choice). In Australia, most 200-ish page paperbacks retail for $24.95 – $29.95.
- Price – eBook: When it comes to eBooks, Amazon offers higher royalties for eBooks between $2.99 and $9.99. Why? Because eBooks in that price range sell more copies. So if your book isn’t selling, see whether the price is appropriate – not based on the value you deliver, but based on what the market is willing to pay for a book.
Book reviews: The more, the better
While I mentioned reviews in the previous section, they bear a second mention. Book reviews don’t simply make it more likely that a reader will buy your book, they are also used in Amazon’s A9 search ranking algorithm.
To find out how you can start getting more reviews for your book, check out my guide to getting 25+ Amazon reviews.
So what happens on Amazon in the first 30 days?
Now that we’ve been through how Amazon ranks books in general, the next question is: what is different about the first 30 days?
In the first 30 days after your book’s release, it is categorised on Amazon as a new release. This means it shows up in some extra places, alongside the main search rankings, such as on the bestseller pages.
These extra appearances give your book an extra opportunity to be discovered by readers. If a reader is looking at the Small Business bestseller list and a new release catches their eye, they might click on the listing when they wouldn’t have heard of it otherwise.
However, the current new release thumbnails aren’t very prominent (they used to be featured in a much larger sidebar), so while every little bit helps, you could argue that most people aren’t likely to click on them.
When it comes to the general search rankings, I couldn’t find any information about new books being boosted.
Can you only run an Amazon bestseller campaign in your book’s first 30 days?
This brings us back to the big question: should you only run an Amazon bestseller campaign within 30 days of your book’s release date?
Restricting your window for running a bestseller campaign is like saying you’ll only market your book for 30 days! Why would you spend 6-12 months writing and publishing a book, only to do a little bit of marketing for the first month and then move on to the next thing?
Publishing a book is a significant investment. In most cases, though, this investment is worth it because you will use your book for years to come as a tool to grow your business and find new opportunities. If you restrict your marketing window to the initial launch, you are costing yourself most of the upside.
When it comes to the Amazon bestseller campaign specifically, yes, you may experience a slight boost if your book is a new release, as it will be featured in relevant places throughout the website as a new release. However, that boost is minimal, especially when compared to the other activities taking place in your campaign.
Ultimately, you can run a successful Amazon bestseller campaign at any point in your book’s life – not just the first 30 days.
How a Grammar Factory Amazon bestseller campaign works
At Grammar Factory, when we run an Amazon bestseller campaign in our Publishing + Marketing package, we start by lowering the price of the client’s eBook to 0.99 for seven days.
After this, we will solicit book reviews if our client is having trouble getting them in time for the campaign, book in advertising that reach will hundreds of thousands of people throughout the week, and share the book via the Grammar Factory social media channels.
We also encourage the client to start talking about their book, as well as the week-long sale, everywhere – on social media, with their email list, in client meetings, in podcast interviews, in the media and more.
The results? Every time we’ve run these campaigns, we’ve gotten our clients to the Amazon bestseller lists in Australia and the US. In most cases, they get several #1 rankings.
And we haven’t restricted these campaigns to the initial book launch. When you’re running a business as well as writing a book, it’s easy for things to get busy and to put the book on hold. Sometimes this means we postpone the campaign until the book has been out for several months, and we’ve found that it hasn’t made a difference to results. If anything, it’s easier to promote books that have been out a bit longer because they have more reviews and have built more buzz.
Ultimately, the new release boost is so small that it doesn’t make a difference to hitting the bestseller rankings.
The moral of the story? If you want to become an Amazon bestseller but have missed your initial launch window, don’t panic. You can just as easily become an Amazon bestseller now, or in a few months’ time, as in those initial 30 days.