I think I’m published 43 Kindle books in the Amazon store by this point. Some of them are still there, but I’ve grown as a writer, and I’m focusing more on certain genres and non-fiction topics, so I’ve removed a lot of them that had nothing to do with those.
I wanted to share a little bit of what I’ve learned over the past 10 years of publishing books by offering these tips to aspiring writers focusing on selling in the Kindle store at Amazon in 2017.
1. Number of Pages – doesn’t matter. Within reason, the number of pages you write for a Kindle book doesn’t matter much at all. If you’re giving someone valuable information in the case of a guide or informative book on some some subject and you cover everything you should, the number of pages shouldn’t be a consideration. Your book might be as short as 3,000 words. With fiction you need to hit a decent word count – 20,000 to 30,000 words. Short stories do really well on Amazon. See Hugh Howey’s “Wool” series… he really did well with that short-story series. Traditional word counts of 80,000+ for fiction novels are out the window in this digital age.
Wool by Hugh Howey – more info
2. Color Images – include them. Though many ebook readers are black and white, the Kindle and just about every smart phone today is in color. Everyone expects color image printing to drop dramatically over the next few years. At the moment many just print their images in black and white for print-books. Not so cool, right? Write for tomorrow’s technology. It will be here before you know it. Most people don’t have Kindle readers, they use smartphones and tablets. I use my notebook computer most often to read books. It’s just a nicer experience. Kindle software works on iPad, iPod, iPhone, and many other phones and tablets.
3. Black Text – The black and white Kindles attempts to show shades of color by lightening the text in shades of grey. This gives a bad user experience, and some colors – Lime for instance, shows up very faintly. Go with black for your fonts.
4. Proof – I’ve yet to format a book in MS Word perfectly for the Kindle the first time. Always download the source code for your ebook in Amazon’s KDP dashboard, and either edit it yourself in an HTML editor, or sit beside a geek that can help you with it. While you’re at it, ask the geek to teach you how to do it, so you don’t need help anymore. If you need help – that’s what I’m here for.
5. Title – name your book something that catches eyes. Name your book something with important keywords in it that you want to be found for. Title, along with cover, are the two most important parts to selling your books if you don’t already have a following and people searching on your name or people that are finding you from some other source (Oprah, TV, your blog, etc.). There is some movement at Amazon lately to stuff your title and subtitle with the most words you can possibly fit. It looks horrible. Seems like it is working to get some books at the top of the rankings though. Time will tell. I changed one of my book titles to try this, and got no boost at all from it.
6. Cover. Cover. Cover! Everything else can be perfect – and if your cover bites, you’ll not have the sales that you could with a great cover. I have done two or three iterations of some of my covers – and found that it profoundly affects the number of buyers. Spend a little cash and get a decent cover. I’m offering $99 covers for Kindle books if you need it.
7. Description – You can use a couple of thousand characters to describe your book. Some SEO experts suggest stuffing the maximum number of words there to help rankings. I have seen great rankings using a couple hundred words, and also with many more, so I don’t think it affects ranking all that much. Give your potential buyers a reason to buy your books. State the benefits of owning the book. Pull them in with a hook. Pull them in with a pair of pliers. Whatever you can do to get them to buy your book. Don’t spout hype, but do try to get them emotionally involved in buying your book. Otherwise they’ll be clicking the “BUY” button for someone else’s book.
8. Keywords – max out the use of your keywords by making them the same and along parallel lines as your title and description. However, don’t use the same keywords – because Amazon doesn’t give you a boost for that. You actually end up wasting your keywords on topics Amazon already knows your book is about because they’re in the title. Think bigger scale, and use keywords that are beyond what your book focuses on. If I have a book on Thailand – I always use “Asia, Southeast Asia, Bangkok” as keywords because there are many people searching on them. If your book is about raising kids, you might use these keywords: development, education, teens, teenagers.
9. Categories – you are allowed to choose two categories. Use them wisely, this is another major way buyers find your books. Try to put your book in the smallest category possible so it reaches #1 in that category.
10. Price – I tried a few pricing schemes and I settled on $3.99 for almost all of my books. At $9.99 I was selling about 25 books per month. At $3.99 I’m selling about 150 books. I’m actually making a little more at the lower price, and my books are being more widely read – reaching new people, because of it. $2.99 is as low as you can drop the price and still get 70% commission at Amazon Kindle, or it reverts to 35%. Over time the better price has changed from $2.99 to $3.99 for most books. Amazon now has a feature which tells you what similar books are selling for – and the optimal price for your book. Use it!
11. Include Links to Your Blog – within your book you must have links to your blog and other books on your site(s). The reason being, Amazon is keeping all the lead information for your buyers. You have no way to reach them except putting links in the Kindle books that lead to your blog. You should try to capture your blog visitors’ email addresses so you have permission to email them later. A great service for this is MailChimp.com.
12. Send Free Copies to Get Reviews – another part of the game at Amazon Kindle is the reviews section. There are stars indicating what readers thought of your book. Your competition may be sabotaging you by giving you junk reviews if you’re in a tight niche and fighting for buyers. I’ve already had this happen. You can fight it by offering free ebooks to friends, website visitors, anyone you can reach that will agree to write a review for you at the reviews section. Many authors are doing this. Is it unethical? It’s the game, I don’t think it goes against the bounds of good taste when I do it in response to someone giving undeserved bad reviews.
13. Don’t Link to Your Books at Amazon Kindle Store – Amazon has enough Google juice to get high rankings for your book. In fact, many times Amazon beats me in the Google results for my own books. Much better for you to rank higher than Amazon and have potential buyers come to your own site. Once there you can refer them to Amazon to buy a Kindle version, as well as offer PDF or other ebook formats for purchase. It is essential that you have your own blog and sell your own books there. Your long term success depends on getting a large group of readers that will buy most of the books you put out over the course of your life. Developing this core group should be a major focus of your efforts outside of writing books.
2017 Update: I’ve gone exclusive with Amazon and I link all my book pages from my websites directly to Amazon. Google isn’t giving them any ranking unless there are lots of links to those pages.
Why does nobody end a list at #13?
[Eyes image by English106 at Flickr]