Online promotion should extend beyond your own Web site and into other Web sites where your book appears. Of course, the 10,000-pound gorilla of book sites is Amazon.com, so you want to spend quite a bit of time getting your book listing just right and taking advantage of some of the extra tools Amazon offers that help you market your book.
Tweaking the Amazon system is a bit of an art unto itself. If you really love Amazon, check out the book Aiming at Amazon by Aaron Shepard. He goes into excruciating detail about all the nuances of Amazon because unlike me, he feels that’s the only place you should market your book. (For the record, I think you should never rely on only one sales outlet and should sell your book yourself as well.) But you need to do what is right for your business.
To begin, you need to make sure your book is listed correctly. If you have signed up with Lightning Source’s distribution program, your book will end up in Amazon’s database. Search for your book by ISBN and you should be able to find it.
Once you have verified that your book has “flowed through” into Amazon, you should customize your listing. Your first stop is:
From this link you can access a number of Amazon features.
1. Add Descriptive Content
Amazon has a number of fields where you can include a lot of information about your book, including description, author bio, inside flap or back cover copy, reviews, or an excerpt. I found out the hard way that if you add too much information, it actually scrolls off. I kept thinking that the text was missing, when in fact, it actually was on another area of the book page. Sadly, Amazon is constantly rearranging their standard book-page layout to include more stuff, so basic information you want about your book gets shuffled off into obscurity.
2. Search Inside
The Search Inside feature lets prospective readers view pages inside your book, such as the table of contents and index. The idea is that customers can virtually “flip through” the pages, which helps you sell books. Whether or not this feature increases sales is hotly debated. Aaron Shepard doesn’t use it because the “Search Inside” icon that’s placed on your book degrades the cover image. I tend to think that the affect Search Inside can have on sales depends quite a bit on the book itself. It can have a detrimental effect on sales if people can simply look up the information they want and leave (without buying your book).
The other disadvantage of Search Inside is that you have to follow a whole lot of arcane Amazon rules to get signed up, and it can take weeks or months to actually get it working. Dealing with Amazon is often somewhat unpleasant because if you have a problem or a question, there is no way to EVER talk to a human being.
3. Amazon Connect
Amazon Connect is basically an author blogging function, so you can post messages to your readers. You can create an author profile page, and when you post to your blog, the messages appear on your book detail page (or pages if you have more than one book). I tend to think that few people, except really die-hard Amazon users, actually “follow” most Amazon Connect blogs, but the feature is useful for posting extra information that isn’t included in your book detail information.
In my case, I have posted Amazon Connect entries that explain why I wrote a particular book and the “slant” or philosophy behind it. I think of it as the book “back story.” This feature has a tremendous amount of potential because it can keep your pages fresh. (In fact, to be honest, it’s one of those things I know I should take more advantage of, but simply haven’t had the time.)
Of course, when it comes to Amazon, the most important thing bar none is reviews. Any time someone buys your book, ask them to write a review on Amazon. Since you don’t have access to who buys your book from Amazon itself, you can’t do much there. But in my case, when people buy a book from me directly or receive a promotional or review copy, I ask them to post a review on Amazon. Many do.
Plus, if you’ve sent out your book for peer review or blurbs, once the book is out and in the Amazon database, make sure to ask anyone who said anything nice to post a review there. Reviews on Amazon are more important than just about anything else, so do what you can to get good ones!
5. Community Features
As an Amazon shopper, you can improve awareness of your book by participating in some of Amazon’s “user-generated” features like Listmania. From within your Amazon profile, you can create Listmania Lists and So You’d Like to…Guides. In both cases, you can include your own book on the list. With these types of features, it really helps if you’re a big reader. You can also “tag” books and participate in Discussion Boards if you want to really get into the Amazon experience.
Plus, you can “pay it forward” and write reviews yourself. The more active you are on Amazon, the easier it is to navigate the site and learn more about how everything interrelates. Some people love Amazon; some not so much.
Although it can be somewhat difficult to track results, as with anything related to marketing, you should try something, see if it works, and then do more of it. Take advantage of the features you feel comfortable with, have time to enjoy, and do well.