Author Susan Bischoff who has a subscription to BookBuzzr Author Pro and is giving away over 30 free copies of her e-book on Freado.com has seen her book’s Amazon rank increase substantially over the last few months.
We got in touch with Susan and asked her for some tips that she may want to share with other authors. Here’s what she had to say:
I’m happy to talk to you about the Amazon rankings. I’ve been very pleased with the book’s success. I first hit the Kindle top 1000 within the first 8 weeks of publication, and have, with a few temporary dips, remained there fairly consistently. My highest ranks to date occurred during the first week of November. I believe my highest rank so far has been 327. I have sold well over 3,000 books across all distributors and formats, as the book approaches the end of its fourth month of release.
The things I think are important for new authors, and independent authors in particular, are visibility and credibility.
There are tons of books out there, and no one can buy your book if they don’t know it exists. I really didn’t have a promotional budget in the beginning, and so I mostly concentrated on internet marketing that was free.
- I signed on for the free trial of BookBuzzr (Author Pro), and I can tell that affected sales because other BookBuzzr authors sometimes show up on my Amazon page under “Customers also purchased” and “What customers bought instead” (ok, those aren’t exactly what those sections are called, I’m sure, but you know).
- My price for this first book is as low as Amazon will let me set it at 99cents. And, for a time, Amazon discounted it to .89. This helped me get found by customers browsing by price. More importantly, it allowed those who found me to make low-risk purchasing decisions on a new author. Most people are willing to risk 99cents on something that might not be good or might not suit them, but higher prices sometimes require deliberation. 99cents is an impulse buy price, and I think I didn’t lose as many sales through people deciding to think about it, shop around, and then forgetting about my book.
- Every sales counts in the beginning because it’s sales that drive rank, and rank increases visibility on the Amazon top-seller lists, which are pretty important. In October, I found out that I was being found on Amazon’s Hot New Releases list for my category. This is a list which mirrors the Top Sellers in a category, but only include books in their first three months of release.
- I also traded excerpt material with two other authors with similar stories. One of these authors was somewhat established already, and selling well. When readers reached the end of her book, some of them went on to read the first chapter of my book, and then went back and purchased that on Amazon.
- I also blog and have a presence on social media platforms MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter. Twitter is the one which requires the most upkeep but has gotten me the most results as other people find a retweet my book.
- The best social media outlet I’ve used for book promotion is Goodreads. I did a “Goodreads Event” in which I offered free copies of my book in exchange for honest reviews. I did this for seven days in my second week of release, and gave away about 30 copies. I asked my friends to invite their Goodreads networks to this event, two did that for me, and about three hundred people were personally invited to come check out my book and request a free copy. It took weeks, and for some, months, to read the book and get it back to me, it resulted in many reviews. Most importantly, several book bloggers responded, read, enjoyed, and gave me great reviews. A few of these were serious bloggers with nice followings who work hard on promoting their blogs and draw attention to their reviews by tweeting and other forms of promotion. The nature of Goodreads itself is amazing exposure since whenever anyone added, reviewed, or in any way updated their own account regarding my book, their followers on the site were exposed my book again, like a free ad for my book. Those who link their Goodreads update stream to Twitter and Facebook were making my book more visible to their networks on those sites as well.
- I maintain a simple website/blog where I keep up-to-date information on where to purchase my book so that people who look me up because they click to my site from Twitter, or because they hear someone mention my book, series, or name and Google me, can easily find out more about my work and where to buy it. I can’t tell you how many profile links I’ve clicked on Twitter, from people who claim to be writers, and there’s no book information on the site, or I really have to work to find it, or they don’t link me to their retailers, expecting me to go and search out their book! When they already had my interest…but not that much interest.
- First, like I said, the 99cent price helps lessen the credibility issue for a new author because it’s so low-risk. But not for all customers.
- Reviews are critical. Giving away the book for free early on allowed some people to get it with no risk but their time. When those started to come back as reviews, it encouraged customers to try it for themselves. It told other customers that my book was a good bet. It also helped me approach more book bloggers because I could reference a page with many good reviews—most book bloggers don’t want to read bad books—when asking them to give my book a read.
- My cover gives me credibility. It looks professional because it is. I hired a professional to design the cover and it has definitely paid off. A professionally designed cover can be had for $100-$150, especially if one discusses the budget with the artist. My cover is very genre-appropriate, so it makes a promise to the reader regarding genre expectations, and it’s also eye-catching, intriguing, and shows well in a small size. Customers cannot tell, just by looking at my cover, that I’m independently published, and many shoppers will dismiss a book based on a cover that looks homemade. My cover invites them to take a closer look, and try to find out what kind of secret the girl is trying to keep.
- I have a good book blurb/product description which I have taken time in crafting, and which I have tinkered with and improved since I posted it originally.
- I’ve provided a good amount of sample material which is well polished. (My style is very casual, but I’ve tried to make it as engaging and error-free as possible.) It was important to me, when writing and editing the book itself, to hook the reader in the first few pages. I know that I generally make my decision to read further or purchase within the first three screens of a sample. Besides the story elements, I’m also looking at voice/style and grammar/proof-reading issues. Many authors lose me in these first screens of text when I decide that I just can’t spend hours reading bad grammar or an author whose style isn’t to my taste.
That’s all I can think of, just at the moment, but I’ll admit that my thoughts are bit scattered as I’m traveling for the holiday (Thanksgiving). If you have questions on any of this, I’d be happy answer anything I can next week. You also might check out a series of articles I wrote on this topic for my blog back in October. I’ve pulled up the category link for you here: http://susan-bischoff.com/category/increasing-kindle-rank/ where you’ll find the posts in reverse order. The first, “Unknown to Top 1K in 8 Weeks,” is at the bottom of the page. The next post, “Goodreads, Giveaways, and Reviews,” has been the most popular of the series. I also recommend that my peers read We Are Not Alone: A Writer’s Guide to Social Media by Kristen Lamb. I’m not sure what there is in there for you, with regard to your site, but I think her understanding of social media and her plan for writers is excellent.
Thanks for contacting me, and, again, please feel free to write with further questions and I’ll do my best.