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). Achieving that kind of success takes careful planning.
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. Think of this as 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, and most of this advice will apply elsewhere, but some of the advice will be specific to it.
- 1. Spy on the Best-Sellers and Trending Keywords
- 2. Understand Amazon Rankings
- 3. Develop a Platform Based on Thought Leadership
- 4. Create a Strong Personal Brand
- 5. Use Proven Best-Selling Archetypes
- 6. Solve Popular Problems
- 7. Have Your Work Edited Professionally
- 8. Select Popular Publication Routes
- 9. Collaborate with Book Bloggers to Promote Your Book
- 10. Pitch to Book Reviewers
- 11. Get Exposure
- 12. Be Present and Approachable in Person
- Final Thoughts
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 take a peek at how much those authors make in royalties, which is likely to motivate you even more.
Or, you can also 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. But don't be tempted to put your book in a niche category that doesn't suit it just to rise to the top.
There are over 500 book categories on Amazon. Select yours carefully to make sure it really represents what you're writing about. This gives your book the best chance of reaching readers who will really want to read your novel.
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 love what you write and who trust you as an authority on your specialist subject, whether that's in fiction or non-fiction. If you build a solid tribe, you can rely on them to buy your books.
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 through social media and by building an email list. Be approachable.
That doesn't mean you have to give all of yourself to your platform. Remember: your writing comes first. Spending all your time on your platform won't bring you more readers if they have nothing to read. Read this article to find out more about striking the perfect balance.
You could even use an alter ego persona to create some distance, if necessary.
4. Create a Strong Personal Brand
Whether or not you're using an alter ego, 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. Creating a tagline means 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.
7. Have Your Work Edited Professionally
Start by using an editing tool yourself. Editing is tough, so it's useful to have a helping hand like ProWritingAid to guide you through.
When you send the manuscript off to a professional copy-editor, you'll have already fixed the more basic mistakes that they'd have to spend time on before moving on to tone of voice and characterization.
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.
It's okay to be solidly committed to being an indie author AND want to have a really well produced book.
If you want some insider secrets from the publishing industry before you publish your book, make sure you don't miss our free webinar with Publisher Alexa Bigwarfe, Thinking Like a Publisher: Insider Secrets for Indie Authors That Will Set You Apart From The Rest.
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.