Jennifer Xue
Staff Blogger at ProWritingAid and Corporate Content Specialist
Published Nov 28, 2018

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Today, anyone with a laptop can publish books. An author myself, my e-books have reached Amazon best-selling status multiple times. While skeptics say that if it's not a New York Times best-seller, then it's not a "real" best-seller, writers shouldn't be discouraged.

It's completely possible for best-selling authors to become millionaires by self-publishing on Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing platform. The thing is, not every best-selling author is a millionaire. I certainly am not (yet).

In this article, we'll discuss what you need to know about Amazon and what you can do to make your book stand out among millions of book titles. It's a game plan for self-published authors. For practicality, we'll use the Amazon KDP path as an example: it's not the only platform available, but some of the advice will be specific to it.

1. Spy on the Best-Sellers and Trending Keywords

Consider using Kindle Spy to select the topics and titles that are most likely to achieve success, based on recent historical data. With this tool, you can also peek how much those authors make in royalties, which is likely to motivate you even more. Or, you can use keyword analyzing tools, so that you know what search terms people are actually using on search engines.

2. Understand Amazon Rankings

A book's Amazon rank is updated hourly to reflect recent and historical sales. Naturally, less popular categories are easier to conquer, as there are not that many competitors. Since there are 500 book categories, carefully select yours.

To become a best-seller in a particular hour, you only need to sell as many copies as possible within that hour. Arrange to have your supporters purchase simultaneously to amplify this effect.

3. Develop a Platform Based on Thought Leadership

Both fiction and non-fiction authors can and should use this strategy. A "platform" or "tribe" is a group of readers who just love what you write and are happy to consume your works.

To develop your platform, create a blog and turn it into a hub of all your online activities, including social media feeds, an archive of columns on publications, and personal or professional information. Communicate with your tribe on a daily basis. Be approachable. Use an alter ego persona, if necessary.

4. Create a Strong Personal Brand

Your name is, of course, a personal brand. However, there are people out there with similar names. For instance, there are two Paul Allens in the technology industry. One is the Microsoft founder and Bill Gates' business partner. The other is the founder of Ancestry.com.

Create a distinguishing feature that serves as a tagline wherever you go. Perhaps you're Susan Smith the Dolphin Whisperer Motivational Speaker or Dave Jones the One-Book-Per-Week Writing Coach, so people won't confuse you with other Susan Smiths and Dave Joneses.

5. Use Proven Best-Selling Archetypes

There is nothing new under the sun. You only need to put a new twist on an old idea. Use existing fiction archetypes that have sold millions of books. Archetypes are basically patterns, models, or types, which shape the structure of your story.

6. Solve Popular Problems

Fame begets fame. Works analyzing famous brands or telling the stories of famous people almost always make people curious. Try searching "Oprah Winfrey" on Amazon. You'd be surprised to find out how many titles are available about this amazing woman.

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7. Have Your Work Edited Professionally

Start by using a grammar and plagiarism checking app, like ProWritingAid, before sending the manuscript off to a professional copy-editor. No matter how great your book idea is, if the writing isn't up to par for professional publishing, don't attempt to publish it anywhere, including by yourself. Remember, self-published doesn't mean sloppily published.

8. Select Popular Publication Routes

Select the popular publication routes, like through the aforementioned Amazon KDP or through IngramSpark, which is a division of Ingram for print-on-demand books. However, remember that more than half of book sales, regardless of the format, take place online. If you choose to sell your print-on-demand and electronic books on your website, you might risk losing many opportunities, unless you're a genius in book marketing.

9. Collaborate with Book Bloggers to Promote Your Book

When you're ready to promote your book, book bloggers are the cyber soldiers that will lift you up to Amazon's best-selling sky. Some book bloggers are reader-reviewers, others are fans of authors, and some promote free e-books published on Amazon, like BookBub or Freebooksy. Use a combination of their services.

10. Pitch to Book Reviewers

Have your book reviewed multiple times by reputable reviewers, like Kirkus and others. Amazon has strict policies on book reviews, however. Paid reviews aren't permitted, except for editorial reviews. And when you give away your e-book in exchange for a review, it must be clearly stated on the Amazon review.

11. Get Exposure

Getting on shows, podcasts, and reputable blogs requires sophisticated publicity skills. Reach out to journalists, editors, writers, and bloggers. You're welcome to hire a professional publicist, if your budget allows. If not, it's still doable, as long as your pitch is customized to the media. You may want to pre-write the article as if the journalist had written it by him or herself. Disclose this by saying that this article is exclusive and can be used under his or her byline.

12. Be Present and Approachable in Person

You can give free public education seminars on various topics related to your book. If you write fiction books, you can create events that encourage young people to write creatively. Non-fiction book authors can conveniently use chapters of their book as presentation materials.

Equipped with this 12-step plan, you can start writing your future best-selling book with confidence. As long as you combine data analytics with human intelligence and writing skill mastery with the support of an army of book soldiers, your dream of becoming an Amazon best-selling author is definitely reachable.

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Jennifer Xue
Staff Blogger at ProWritingAid and Corporate Content Specialist

Jennifer Xue is an award-winning e-book author with 2,500+ articles and 100+ e-books/reports published under her belt. She also taught 50+ college-level essay and paper writing classes. Her byline has appeared in Forbes, Fortune, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Business.com, Business2Community, Addicted2Success, Good Men Project, and others. Her blog is JenniferXue.com. Follow her on Twitter @jenxuewrites.

Interesting article, Jennifer. Thanks. You have a typo in #10 - you mean paid reviews. If Amazon discovers you paid for a review, they will potentially delete all of them, even delete your account. They've been cracking down on people gaming the system. Also worth noting that the reviews under a book are supposed to be customer reviews. Editorial reviews are placed in the book descriptions and the editorials sections. I took a workshop where they talked about gaming rankings. One way you didn't mention is marketing pre-sales so that when the book goes live, the sales peak and you can get a "best seller" ranking in a category. But personally, I avoided such claims as it's a little meaningless. If the book can't sustain it's ranking, it's not selling and is thus not a "best seller." This is also why claims of "best seller" status you mention in the opening are falling into disrepute. I've also found a huge difference in results from exposure. I've done talks at major conferences that had little result but a single interview in my niche doubled subscribers.

By DavidFB on 29 November 2018, 08:52 PM

I very recently purchased ProWriting, and have a novel I'd like you to review. How do I do it? I'm elderly and sometimes get confused by too many technical demands. Jim

By jim12343 on 30 November 2018, 03:27 PM

Hi Jim, please log into our web app using your email and password: https://prowritingaid.com/en/Analysis/WebEditor/Go. Then upload your work and run any reports you'd like. Hope that helps!

By kylemassa on 03 December 2018, 12:46 PM