You’ve probably heard me say that nearly 70% of books are sold online. And who do you suppose gets the majority of that business? If you said Amazon, you get the prize. If you’ve ever been to Amazon.com, you know that they sell everything. They started with books, but they sell everything that can possibly be sold. How in the world do you make your book stand out among the millions of products they have available?
Fortunately, Amazon has some handy tools that any enterprising author can use to increase the impulse buys that Amazon is so good at promoting.
There are two in particular that will help people looking for books like yours to find yours: customer reviews and tags. Ask everyone you know who has read the book to go to Amazon.com and do these things. All they need is a user account with Amazon, and they can write a customer review of your book. In describing the book, they will naturally use key words that Amazon and other search engines will then associate with your book. You can make sure they naturally use them by identifying some key words and asking them to use those words in their review if they see fit. You’re not writing the review for them, but you’re helping them use key words. Where do you get those key words?
This is the best part. The key words you give people to use in their reviews can come from the tags of other books that are similar to yours. Tags are words that customers associate with your book. Anyone who is logged in can add one or “vote” for an existing one. Look up the books from 2 or 3 authors whose books are like yours and see what tags they have associated with them. (Once you get to the book page, scroll down until you see the section called “Tags Associated with This Book.” It’s below all the reviews.)
In addition to using them for reviews, you can ask people to add and vote for these key words as tags on your book. I recently looked up the most commonly used tag on a popular fantasy novel. It was “epic fantasy” with just 114 votes. Here’s the key question: do you have more than 114 friends willing to tag your book with the most commonly used tag for books similar to yours? If so, then Amazon’s computers will see your book as more strongly associated with that term than that popular book you just looked up.
How does this matter?
Initially, it doesn’t make a huge difference. But have you ever logged in to Amazon.com and seen a welcome screen? It will say, “Based on your recent searches, you might like these items”, and it lists various products Amazon has on their site. How does it make these associations? By comparing the tags on the things you’ve looked at to the tags on other things. The more closely the tags on your book resemble the books you looked up, the more likely your book will show up when people who bought that book (or the movie based on it, or the coffee mug with main character’s face on it or the T-shirt) log in to Amazon. Now people who are VERY interested in your genre will start seeing your book every time they come to Amazon. Then those people will start buying your book through Amazon. That’s when another nice little bit of magic happens.
When people who have bought these other books also buy yours, your book will show up on those pages in the list titled “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought”. Your name will also show up in the lists called “Customers Also Bought Items By” and “What Do Customers Ultimately Buy After Viewing This Item”. At first it won’t be at the top of the list and people may have to click a link to find it, but the more people buy your book this way, the more likely it is to rise to the top.
The best part about this is that it doesn’t cost anyone a dime. You can open an account with Amazon without buying anything. (NOTE: Amazon does require you to have made a purchase with them at some point in time in order to post a review.)
Barnesandnoble.com has similar features on their sites, so you might be able to do the same things there. I haven’t done the research on them, so I don’t have any further details. I do know you can at least have people write reviews there.