Monday, April 8, 2013

10 easy steps to get people to buy your book on Amazon

Woman checking the Amazon reviews of your book before she buys it in a local bookstore.
You've just published your first book, and now it's available on Amazon. But, nobody besides your overeager aunt has purchased it yet, and your publisher isn't doing anything for you. So, you ask yourself, "How do I get people to buy my book on Amazon?"

Fortunately, I'm an Amazon junkie, and I've spent way too much time analyzing Amazon so I can walk you through this difficult process. Follow my instructions, you'll double your book sales overnight, and you'll be on your way to selling 100,000 books by the end of this year.

The wild reception of the book, The Healing Code, confused me, so I spent some time analyzing it. It's a good book, and I got great results from it, but for a quirky new age meditation technique, it shouldn't have sold as many copies of itself for as long as it has. It's been a top 1000 seller ever since it was published almost 4 years ago. Why does it sell so much, and how can you use the exact same technique to boost your book sales? Here's what I learned from what the authors of that book did:

#1: You must believe that your book is special. 

This may be the hardest part. Since you're a published writer, you're actually more of an artist than an author. The biggest problem with artists is that they feel their best work is their next work they're going to complete, and not their last work that is already completed. This is actually getting in the way of you thinking that your last book is amazing, so just put your self-criticism on hold for a few hours, and think about how great your book is that you're trying to sell.

It takes a ton of effort to write a book, and you put a big chunk of your life into this book. In a way, this book is you. Even if your old, stodgy English teacher would have given your book an F-, you still put a huge part of your life into that book, and the public who will love your book looks at different criteria than your English teacher. Plus, you are probably one of the most amazing people in the world, and your book is a reflection of you. That's why your book is so special, and you need to believe it.

I remember asking a friend before she got a new tattoo if she would regret it. My friend said, "I won't ever regret any of my tattoos, even if I change my mind about what's important to me in the future, because tattoos always remind me of significant times in my life. This story is very similar to your book. Even if you change your mind about this book a few years down the road, it will always represent a significant part of your life.

Your book is so significantly special. Remember it, or the rest of this advice won't work.

#2: You need to care more about selling the next thousand copies of your book than you do about the markup percentage on your next book you sell

This one is also extremely hard for artists. For some reason, artists are obsessed with the markup percentage on the sale of their next work and they lose focus about long-term sales potential. You might say, "I'm an artist, I don't care about percentages and math!" But what do I mean by that? I mean that artists are generally more interested in making sure they get at least 3 to 5 dollars per book than they are about selling a lot of books.

With books, 100% of it is about the volume, and none of it is about the markup percentage of your book. You're reading this article because you're taking a break for a few hours from being an artist, and you're trying to boost your book sales. Artists are in-the-present people, not future worriers. That live-now philosophy is why you're so good at what you do, but we just need to take a little break from it to sell some books. I'm not saying that you have to change your personality, but while you're following my advice, take a break from being in the moment, and just think about the future sales of your book.

#3: For each Amazon review that you already have on your book, mark it as helpful

Each one? Even the 1-star, critical review? Yes, mark every single review as helpful, even the ones that are so harsh that they make you cry.

Why would I ever recommend that you do this? The whole reason is not because the reviews are actually helpful. It's because a book where every review gets helpful votes will attract top Amazon reviewers to review your products. There's a whole subculture of people who spend more time writing Amazon reviews than your crazy uncle spends on his model train set, and you want these influential hobbyists to review your book. The thing that motivates these influential Amazon reviewers is only one thing: helpful votes on their reviews. If one of these influential reviewers looks at your book, and they see that everyone that ever writes a review of your book gets a helpful vote, then they'll buy your book, read it, and review it, just to get that helpful vote.

If you get a few of your friends to mark all of the reviews on your book helpful, then it will attract even more top reviewers. Amazon's reviewer rank algorithm rewards top reviewers the most for new people that think their review is helpful, and so the more real, unique people who think that the reviews on your book are helpful, the more recognition these reviewers get from Amazon.

Make sure you and your friends actually read the reviews, and think through a reason why each one is helpful. Amazon takes great pains to try to avoid review manipulation.

#4: Go through all the 4-star and 5-star reviews, and make a specific comment on why you liked their review

Say something personal like, "Hi, I'm the author, and I thought it was really cool that you identified with the main character! I wrote the character like this because..."

Make sure you write in an informal, friendly first person tone. A big reason you're doing this is so that people feel like they're connecting with a real person.

Commenting on reviews is actually better publicity than a book signing, because it generates a lot more buzz. Each person that gets a book signed by you will tell 0.5 other people about it. However, each person that you make a personalized comment on their Amazon review will tell 10+ people about it.

#5: Go through all the 1-, 2-, and 3-star reviews, and make a comment that says this:

"Thanks for writing this review. I really appreciate your candor. I encourage you to try again to finish the book (or read it again, etc.) and look at it from [insert new perspective here]. I'm confident that if you give it another try, that you'll reconsider what you didn't like, and that you'll really enjoy this book."

This is the biggest thing the people that wrote The Healing Code did, that made their book a long term high volume seller. This is also where you most need the belief that your book is special. It takes a lot of guts to put yourself out like this, but it works, and this method will turn your worst critic into at least a friend.

The person may even follow your advice, finish reading your book, and decide to change your their review to a 5-star review. But, make sure you don't hint in your comment that that's what you really want, because Amazon won't let you pressure the reviewers in any way.

#6: Get thirty 5-star reviews on Amazon

There's something magical about getting thirty 5-star reviews on Amazon. Once you get thirty 5-star reviews, then your book sales will take off. Here's how you do it.
  • Find a friend or a relative, and have them read your book
  • Ask them to give you a 5-star review
  • Give them some sample text for a review, tell them to NOT mention that they know you, and tell them to write just about the content of the book
You have to give your friends some guidance, otherwise you'll get a bunch of well-meaning 3 and 4 star reviews that say something like: "Well, I've known Martha for fifteen years, and even though I don't like science fiction at all, I think it's very impressive that she wrote a book all by herself." That kind of review is the kiss of death, plus Amazon has removed reviews in the past just because they're from relatives.

Instead, tell your aunt, "Hey, would you review my book, give it 5 stars, and say something like, 'I really liked this book. It was inventive science fiction, that made me think about [insert stuff here]. I liked the style of the book because of [insert stuff here]. I'd recommend this book to everybody."

You have to ask your friends for 5 stars. A lot of people will just naturally give it 3 or 4 stars if they don't realize that you actually need 5 stars, probably because their grade school teachers told them that nothing is perfect. Again, remember how awesome your book is.

Then repeat this process 30 times with different friends.

#7: Write a 5-star review of your book on Amazon

The nice thing about this step is that you can be completely honest with who you are. Say something like, "Hi, I'm the author of this book, but I liked this book so much because of [insert a list of stuff here.] I really hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it."

Make sure that you focus on the content of the book, and you don't copy any promotional material that someone else wrote for you. The worst that can happen is that Amazon takes down your review, so don't worry. Amazon probably will take it down eventually, but at least you've seeded your book page with a glowing review as a model for other reviewers to follow.

#8: Regularly check your book's Amazon page, and repeat steps 3-5 for all new reviews

You could even have your assistant, spouse, or a good friend do this, and just print out a summary of the nice, complimentary things people say, and edit out anything negative. Doing this on an ongoing basis can be exhausting. The important thing is that your comments sound like you, not that they are actually written by you.

#9: You may be able to get rid of a couple of your 1-star negative reviews

Amazon's review rules say that reviews need to be about the product. A lot of one star reviews are actually about late shipping, that their product arrived damaged, or that the current price is too expensive. If you have a critical review that doesn't mention why they don't actually like the content of the product, then you can click on the "Report this review" link below the review (you may have to mark it unhelpful first), and tell Amazon that this review isn't actually reviewing the product. Amazon is generally pretty good about removing reviews that aren't really reviews.

But, be careful. If the review even mentions anything specific about the product, then Amazon won't remove it, so then your only option is to try to get more 5-star reviews.

#10: Now, you'll sell 100,000 copies of the book by the end of the year

Congratulations! You are so wonderful that you deserve all of this success! You can now get back to writing your next book.

Other stuff:

Why am I so focused on Amazon reviews? Google both your book and your name right now, and you'll notice that one of the top results is your book, on Amazon, with the number of stars that reviewers gave it. You should follow this advice, even if your main source of selling your books is a Saturday swap meet.

Even if you just print out this article and give it to your assistant to complete all the steps, you should make sure that this happens.

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