Becoming an Amazon Bestseller

Not long after on-demand self-publishing hit the mainstream, and Amazon started putting every other company out of business (like Borders, CompUSA, etc.), a “marketing strategy” began circulating about a sales technique whereby a book could (at least momentarily) skyrocket to #1 on the Amazon bestsellers list.  Before this technique started becoming saturated, authors closely following this strategy often saw their books reach an overall Amazon bestsellers ranking of #1.  Then, as more and more authors followed the same steps, it became acceptable to call oneself a “#1 Amazon Bestseller” simply if the book reached #1 in a very specific genre-category on Amazon (which is still nothing to sneeze at).

Most of you have probably seen about or read about this strategy before, but just in case you haven’t, here’s a quick run-down of how it works and why it works.

HOW IT WORKS 

  1. Pick a specific day in which you will strive for “bestseller status” on Amazon. Make it far enough in advance to accomplish the rest of these steps.
  2. Create Joint Ventures with other authors and/or online marketers. A “Joint venture” is a mutually beneficial arrangement whereby you partner with another writer/entrepreneur to trade something of value (an eBook, for example) with one another in exchange for something else of value (each other’s mailing lists, or word-of-mouth publicity).  Many authors and entrepreneurs are open to being Joint Ventures on Amazon Bestsellers programs because they know you will actively promote it (which is necessary for success). Through that promotion, their eBook, or “product” will receive additional exposure they would otherwise not be able to achieve.  The best and easiest way to find possible Joint Venture partners is by looking at other Amazon Bestsellers campaigns (perhaps you’ve received an email), and following up with the same people.
  3. Contact each of your Joint Venture partners and introduce yourself and your book and ask if they’d like to help you with your marketing campaign.  Ask if they would be willing to give away something of value to your customers in exchange for some publicity, and/or a free copy of your book.  Some will say yes. Others may say no.  It rarely takes much of their time, since you are handling almost all the details, so this is a nice time when you receive more “yes’s” than “no’s”. All they have to do is donate the “free bonus” and offer to email their mailing list on the specific date you decided upon in Step #1.
  4. Once you’ve collect 10 or so Joint Ventures, you need to make a “Sales Page” on the internet.  There are a variety of ways to accomplish this, depending upon your proficiency with HTML.  The purpose of the “Sales Page” is to “sell” your book and, as extra incentive, offer your customers “Free Bonuses”, the combined value of which exceeds the cost of your book.  These free bonuses are compliments of all your Joint Partners; so your sales page also identifies and “sells” each of the Joint Venture products, too.  If your book costs $19.95, but you are giving away $200 worth of “free stuff” anyone with even a passing interest in your book may pony up the twenty bucks just to get all the extras.
  5. At the bottom of the Sales Page is the Buy Button. There are a variety of ways to do this, also, depending upon your HTML proficiency.  You can send them directly to Amazon and ask them to forward you a receipt (the manual process), or you can provide a Promotion Code which entitles them to automatic downloads of all the free bonuses (the automatic process).  Whichever method you choose, make sure your instructions and directions are very clear for them, so they know they’ll get everything you are offering.  If you go the “manual” route, be prepared to deliver upon your promises, even if thousands of orders come in (what a great problem to have!)
  6. Alternatively, you can create the “sales page” within the body of your email that you are sending out. The email still ends with the Amazon Buy Button directing each recipient to your Amazon Sales Page.  You must send your customers to Amazon, rather than selling the book directly yourself. After all, the whole point is to reach an Amazon bestsellers ranking, and that only occurs if your book sales are going through Amazon.
  7. At the date and time determined in Step #1, send your email to your mailing list.  Send out a quick reminder email to your Joint Partners to do the same thing. Provide them with the same email so they don’t have to write anything themselves.  Theoretically, the same email will therefore go to thousands upon thousands of people (when you combine your mailing list with the lists of all 10+ of your Joint Partners) all at roughly the same time, all promoting your book, and all offering hundreds of dollars in “bonuses” to your new readers.
  8. Depending upon the size of the combined lists, even if only a small percentage of people buy your book, it is often enough to “trick” Amazon’s algorithm into skyrocketing your book’s Amazon Bestsellers campaign.

WHY IT WORKS 

Well, that’s why the word “trick” is in quotation marks.  Amazon’s Ranking algorithm tabulates quantity of sales within periods of time. So a book that normally sells 1 book a month that suddenly sells 10 books an hour will “trick” Amazon’s algorithm into thinking it’s selling like hotcakes (because, relatively speaking, it is!).  This is why it’s important for the sales email to be sent on the same day by all the Joint Partners, and ideally all within the same short period of time.  Recipients who act upon the email, and buy your book, will do so within a condensed period of time, which will probably catapult your Amazon Sales Ranking.

Will your ranking last?  No (so be sure to watch Amazon throughout the day and take screen shots). But “#1 Amazon Bestsellers” have never worried too much about divulging the fine print.

amazon bookstore


brent sampson
In 2002, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Semi-Finalist Brent Sampson founded Outskirts Press, a custom book publishing solution that provides a cost-effective, fast, and powerful way to help authors publish, distribute, and market their books worldwide while leaving 100% of the rights and 100% of the profits with the author. Outskirts Press was incorporated in Colorado in October, 2003.
In his capacity as the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Marketing Officer, Brent is an expert in the field of book publishing and book marketing. He is also the author of several books on both subjects, including the bestseller Sell Your Book on Amazon, which debuted at #29 on Amazon’s bestseller list.

#NaNoWriMo2017 is Coming to an End!

Tomorrow marks the close of the 2017 National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and its participants’ pledge to write 50,000 words in 20 days. “Winners” (those who met or exceeded that goals) have already started to be recognized on the NaNoWriMo website.  If you’re one of those ambitious few (statistically speaking), congratulations; that’s impressive!  Many writers enter.  Much fewer cross the finish line.  But everyone who participates is a winner in our book, because NaNoWriMo is a stepping stone toward establishing a writing habit. As they say, a writer writes.  And in order to crank out 50,000 words in 30 days, you must force yourself to write every day.

That being said, 50,000 is no reason to stop writing. Books are rarely as short as 50,000 words, so crossing the finish line for NaNoWriMo is not the final step. The final step is completing a manuscript and then revising it, editing it, proofreading it, and then publishing it.  One doesn’t publish 50,000 words. One publishes a book.

In order for NaNoWriMo to accept your word count you need to cut and paste your manuscript into their word-count validator.  Sounds easy enough, but it’s surprising so many writers are so willing to give their hard work to an organization without a second thought.  Many writers exhibit hesitancy about sharing their work with publishers and that’s even AFTER a contract has been signed expressly protecting them and their copyrights.  No such agreement exists on the National Novel Writing website.

It’s clear that this issue has come up from time to time because on their forums, they provide a link to another website that “scrambles” your manuscript for the specific purpose of only providing your word count to NaNoWriMo, rather than a book that makes any sense.  But to do that, aren’t you submitting your manuscript to the 3rd party (who may hold even less legitimacy than NaNoWriMo)?

You’ll be happy to know that US Copyright protects you in these instances, as long as you can establish the date your manuscript was completed. Send it in its entirety to a friend via email, and keep the send-receipt.  Or use the “poor man’s copyright” and mail a hardcopy to yourself through the mail, and then keep the postmarked package unopened.  These are quick, easy, inexpensive measures you can take IF you are worried about NaNoWriMo or the 3rd party scrambler taking liberties with your work.  Or, you can rely upon the reputation of the NaNoWriMo organization and rest assured they have better things to do.  

For those of you who cross the 50,000 word finish line tomorrow at midnight… kudos!

nanowrimo 2017 winner


brent sampson
In 2002, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Semi-Finalist Brent Sampson founded Outskirts Press, a custom book publishing solution that provides a cost-effective, fast, and powerful way to help authors publish, distribute, and market their books worldwide while leaving 100% of the rights and 100% of the profits with the author. Outskirts Press was incorporated in Colorado in October, 2003.
In his capacity as the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Marketing Officer, Brent is an expert in the field of book publishing and book marketing. He is also the author of several books on both subjects, including the bestseller Sell Your Book on Amazon, which debuted at #29 on Amazon’s bestseller list. 

Is It Time to Relaunch Your Book?

book launch

Publishing a book for the first time can be an exciting proposition. Dreams of hitting it big can fill your eyes with stars and the world with hope.  Sometimes those dreams come true immediately, but more often than not, reality has a way of stifling even the most optimistic writer.  Success rarely comes immediately, even for those “overnight successes” you hear about in the news. What the news often fails to tell you is how many months and years that “overnight success” toiled tirelessly to reach that brass ring.  Often, the only difference between success and failure is not giving up.

If the bloom has fallen from your publication in the absence of overnight success, now is the time to dust off the dust and get excited again.  Your book is still published!  You are still a published author! And things in the marketplace may have changed in your favor since you’ve put the book on the back burner.  Bring it back to the front and let’s relaunch your book with all new zest and zeal!

1. Re-announce your book
Repeat all the steps you took when you published the first time. Does it matter that your book isn’t brand “new”?  No.  It’s new to anyone who is hearing about it for the first time, so that’s more than enough reason to widen your net.

  • Notify close family and friends in person and by phone or text
  • Notify an even wider circle of friends and associates via email and social media
  • Mail promotional announcements or postcards to everyone you know

2. Use social media
Depending upon how long ago you initially published your book, things may look quite a bit different in social media, and those differences can represent an opportunity for your book that may not have existed before.  Was Facebook the behemoth it is today?  Were videos on YouTube as popular as they are today?  If you were marketing a book even as recently as two or three years ago, the landscape is completely different now.  You may find more success with a book video trailer, more success with a Facebook page, and more success with author readings or events.   The world of independent writers is still growing, which means the community is becoming more vibrant and active in all circles of life.  That activity can translate to awareness, which can translate to word-of-mouth advertising, which can translate to increased book sales.

3. Update your author platform
If your attention on your book has waned over the past several months or years, chances are your author platform is in need of some loving care, also.  Check in on all the social media profiles you set-up when you were initially published.  Is your profile picture still a good representation of you? Do any of your other graphics or images need an update?  Has it been a while since you’ve posted anything on your Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or Linked-In accounts?  Refocusing on book marketing means refocusing on all the elements involving your writing career.  You may discover that as you get more excited about your book, so, too, will readers.

4. It’s never too late to START marketing
Perhaps your attention waned shortly after publication because reverence and riches didn’t follow publication as soon as you had hoped.  Perhaps you didn’t put as much effort into marketing as you could have when your book was first published.  That is very good news!  Why?  Because that means all the opportunities you had when your book was first released are still available to you.   People rarely pay attention to when a book was written or published.  All they care about is whether it will solve their problem, or entertain them, or help them prepare something delicious to eat, or help their children fall asleep peacefully.  No matter how “old” your book may seem to you, it’s brand new to everyone out there in the world who hasn’t heard of it yet.   Start marketing your book TODAY and help those people find your book.  


brent sampson
In 2002, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Semi-Finalist Brent Sampson founded Outskirts Press, a custom book publishing solution that provides a cost-effective, fast, and powerful way to help authors publish, distribute, and market their books worldwide while leaving 100% of the rights and 100% of the profits with the author. Outskirts Press was incorporated in Colorado in October, 2003.

In his capacity as the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Marketing Officer, Brent is an expert in the field of book publishing and book marketing. He is also the author of several books on both subjects, including the bestseller Sell Your Book on Amazon, which debuted at #29 on Amazon’s bestseller list. 

From the Archives: “SELF-PUBLISHING: THE NEW AMERICAN IDOL”

Welcome back to our new Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: February 4th, 2009 ]

Seeing Jennifer Hudson sing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl reminded me of the recent article in the New York Times about the self-publishing industry, which received a lot of attention and has sparked ongoing controversy.

In spite of all evidence to the contrary, it appears conventionally published authors (and those striving to become such) still view self-publishing services with contempt because they feel authors are “cheating” somehow. After all, getting a book published traditionally is “hard work.”  Those who have done it (or long to) perhaps feel as if self-published authors haven’t paid their dues.

But are they really cheating, or are they simply taking advantage of wide-spread changes occurring  throughout the entertainment and business worlds?

Let’s examine other industries:  The same Do-it-Yourself (DIY) fever is sweeping through the music industry. Or, to be more accurate, has already swept through the music industry.  Talented musicians are no longer waiting for acceptance from the “establishment” and instead, are distributing their music through iTunes, finding their audiences through Myspace, and broadcasting their music videos via YouTube.   It is safe to say the music industry has irrevocably changed.  Musicians no longer give 95% of their royalties to the “industry” and customers no longer buy CDs from brick-and-mortar music stores.

Are these musicians cheating? No. They are still paying their dues, but now the invoice comes after their music has already become available. They still must market aggressively to obtain listeners, but at least they have something to market.   The audience determines which of those musicians succeed and which of them fail.

This is no different from the self-publishing book industry.

I think it is safe to say that “becoming a rock star” is a dream that almost everyone can acknowledge, if not personally identify with; although if the ratings for American Idol are any indication, it might actually be a dream nearly everyone can identify with, too.

Other common dreams are “becoming an actor,” “becoming a model,” “becoming a professional athlete,” and yes, even “becoming a published author.”

Can you imagine the uproar that would ensue if all that was required to start playing for the New York Knicks was writing a check for $1000 to some internet company? Can you imagine the fervor if all that was required to obtain a recording contract was standing in line at some reality show try-out?  Wait a minute!  That’s already happening. Reality television has altered the search for “talent” and now, in rare instances, getting “discovered” is no harder than filling out an application. Nowadays, instead of submitting audition tapes to countless producers, lyricists stand in line and face the possibility of public humiliation at the hands of Simon, Paula, and Randy.

This is no different from the self-publishing book industry.

Is this “cheating,” per se, or has the do-it-yourself mentality simply removed unnecessary hurdles that prevented talent from being discovered faster? You see, talent is the one common denominator and talent cannot be purchased. Cast members of Survivor have their fifteen minutes of fame and then disappear back into the abyss. The try-outs for American Idol feature thousands upon thousands of “hopefuls” standing in lines around city blocks and yet the main competition is comprised of just a handful.  Most had their opportunity to shine, and their audience rejected them. But at least they received a shot.

As the New York Times article states, self-publishing companies are thriving, and that is because we give writers their shot, their fifteen minutes, their chance.  We are American Idol for writers. We make it easy to publish a book. If “publishing a book” is your dream, you’re going to be happy with the result.  And if your dream is to be successful, famous, rich, or a combination of the three, you’re going to receive your chance, but just like everyone else who is successful, famous, or rich, you are going to need to bring something special to the table.

Most reasonable people recognize this. Those who don’t may become disillusioned, but listen – if it were easy to become a bestselling author, a multi-platinum recording artist, a player for the New York Knicks, or a highly-sought-after runway model, then everyone would do it.

Just because iTunes makes the distribution of music easy doesn’t mean every artist is going to become a success overnight. And just because standing in line for American Idol is easy doesn’t mean all those people are going to win an Oscar and sing the National Anthem for the Super Bowl.   Lord knows there is only one Jennifer Hudson.  American Idol didn’t make her a success; talent pours from her soul. She would have found success tripping through the dark blindfolded.  But American Idol shined a light on her, and she reflected back.

Self-publishing companies shine a light on writers.  It is the writer’s job to shine back. Some authors do, like Gang Chen, who earned over $39,000 in royalties from Outskirts Press in the 4th quarter of 2008. That’s $13,000 a month. Has his book sold a million copies? No. Is he making a lot of money as a self-published author?  Yes. By any reasonable benchmark, Gang Chen is a successful self-published author who has given specific permission to have his successes shared.

And this brings me to my last point.  All publishing companies are different, just like all writers are different, and just like all contestants on American Idol are different.  Success is never guaranteed. But if you are going to self-publish your book, you’re better off publishing with a company where your chances for success increase.  Above all, you have to believe in yourself and you have to work hard. Success rarely comes easily for anyone, but now, thanks to self-publishing companies, everyone has an equal chance. We’ll shine the light on you. What you do with that light is up to you.

football fan

Six years on, Brent’s words still hold true.  As with many other career fields and endeavors in life, indie and self-publishing authors often suffer from what psychologists call “Imposter Syndrome.”  In an excellent piece (“Imposter Syndrome, and What it Means to be an Adult”) for the journal Humanist back in 2014, Greta Christina defines imposter syndrome as “a condition where accomplished people see themselves as frauds, as not deserving of success or recognition, despite significant evidence to the contrary.  I think imposter syndrome can apply to more than just career accomplishments.  I think imposter syndrome can apply to every aspect of life, and our ability to navigate it as adults.”  She goes on to discuss the importance of rites of passage and rituals as signposts on our way to self-acceptance and self-realization.  Now, Greta Christina is approaching imposter syndrome as a humanist and not as someone specifically interested in self-publishing, but her words resonate.  Indie, hybrid, and self-publishing authors are often (still) perceived as or perceive themselves as newcomers, aliens, or interlopers in the grand publishing sphere.  And yet–and yet–the data shows that self-publishing is a fully respectable and increasingly respected niche.  It’s so pervasively utilized by authors and readers alike that I even struggle to call it a niche.

So how do we change perspectives on self-publishing?  How do we change the interior experience, the actual inhabited day-to-day emotions of being a self-publishing author?  Well, if we listen to experts like Greta Christina, we invent ourselves some rites and rituals.  Recognizing an unhealthy line of thought (such as, “I’m not a real author,” or “I’m only a self-published author”) and then combating it actively with positive (and true) rebuttals (“I am absolutely a real author!” or “I’m so excited to be a self-published author!”) is not just a ritual … it’s a necessity, like breaking any other bad habit.

So here, at the end of this archival revisitation, is my suggestion for a new daily ritual–

Repeat after me: I have to believe in myself and I have to work hard. 

Say it again and again, until you believe in it.  I believe in you. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.