Promoting your book on Amazon

Now, this is a touchy subject. If anyone has been on the Amazon Forums you’ll have seen the absolute rage that self-promotion of an author’s books generates in some readers. And to be fair, in some cases you can understand why. Someone with a passion for books asks for advice on finding a new author that’s similar to the ones they like and suddenly they get inundated with responses from people saying “read mine, it’s only 99p/£1.50/£5.99”. I’m trying to promote my books and that annoys even me…

I’ve been trying a slightly different approach. First of all, yes, I post on those threads on the Forum that say “promote your work here”, “tell us about your self-published novel” etc. Because these are dedicated threads that other Forum users don’t have to read. How effective they are, I don’t know. They don’t seem very helpful to me. Most people (me included) seem to go on there, post an entry promoting their masterpiece, and then leave without giving the other entries the time they deserve.

What I’m doing breaks down into about 4 different areas:

1. I’ve tagged my books with the names of a couple of other authors who I think are similar in style. This just helps perhaps bring a few readers my way that are likely to enjoy what I’ve written.

2. I’ve made some use of listmania, associating my book again to a list of others that I think are similar in style or content.

3. I’m a Vine reviewer for Amazon anyway, so I’ve been upping my game a little bit with reviewing in the hope that other discerning fans of the same things I like may make their way, via my reviewer profile, to my author’s page.

4. I’ve made a conscious effort to participate in the Forums a little bit more. Not to push my own work, but to talk about the books I like and try to make some valid points about them. There’s a satisfaction in helping other people find work they may also like and in talking about something I love – reading. But also, if I’m being honest, it also helps make me more visible which is no bad thing when you’re trying to promote yourself. I’m determined, however, to maintain my integrity and to participate as a genuine fan of literature, not as a thread hijacker… I do recommend books by other independent writers in Forums if I think they’re good, in the same way I do with established authors, and I’d like to think other people would recommend mine if they enjoyed it.

At the end of the day, it’s all about striking a balance. Obviously I want people to read my book, and I need to find ways of drawing their attention to its existence without ramming it down their throats. The hard sell is just counter productive anyway. But this is the approach I’ve been taking – would be interesting to hear what other people are doing…


13 thoughts on “Promoting your book on Amazon

  1. James Everington February 23, 2011 / 9:05 pm

    Hi – what of those four options have you found works best? Hard to tell sometimes where the sales come from…

  2. Neil Schiller February 24, 2011 / 12:04 am

    James, it’s a good question because it IS really hard to see where the sales are coming from. I wish Amazon gave you a Google Analytics account for your product page…

    It’s a bit of guesswork but I can see how many people have viewed my Listmania lists, and I can see who came to my Blog and where they came from (usually). So when I get a sale I check to see if the Listmania count has gone up and if anyone has come to the Blog from my Amazon Reviewer Profile page. In fact, I’d guestimate that only about 20-25% sales seem likely to be generated from these routes. So that accounts for anyone looking at my reviews, my lists AND my forum comments. Which is not a lot.

    The other 75% I can’t track down. But I have noticed US sales have been much higher than UK this month. And when I do a search for my book on Google it’s listed on a load of US affiliate sites that link direct to the Amazon product page. So that’s probably why – it’s getting more coverage. Also, on the US site the book seems to be categorised better whereas in the UK it doesn’t even show when you search under short stories – it seems to be missing a link somewhere…

  3. James Everington February 24, 2011 / 6:32 pm

    Hi – that’s interesting to know you can see how many people view Listmania lists. I didn’t know that; might have to create one.

    Oh, and here’s one you can trace with 100% accuracy – I’ve been meaning to take a look at your other book (Haiku Diaries) since I read Oblivious, so I’m going to do that now. At least that’s one sale explained…!

    • Neil Schiller February 24, 2011 / 6:39 pm

      Hahahah, thanks James. I just saw that another one of those had gone. Thank you. I hope you like Haiku, and people moaning about going to work 😀

  4. James Everington March 8, 2011 / 7:08 pm

    Hi (again) Neil… just wondered in relation to promotion if you’d tried or had any luck doing any author interviews on other people’s blogs? I’ve found a few places which post interviews with indie authors, but I’m wondering whether anyone ever reads them apart from other authors & their mums – i.e. the old does-it-lead-to-sales conundrum.

    (If you want to know which blogs for your own benefit, drop me a mail and I’ll send you their addresses – don’t want to just post stranger’s private email addresses)


    • Neil Schiller March 9, 2011 / 1:45 am

      James, no, haven’t tried that one. I’ve pretty much tried posting on every free indie website I can find and I think I’ve probably done as much as I can spamming the forum 🙂 It’s hard work thinking of promotion ideas isn’t it? It’s not my area of expertise at all. I’m thinking I really now have to start doing some readings or something, anywhere, to get a bit more exposure. Have you tried the interview thing with any of the sites?

      Was meaning to ask you as well – you’ve written some horror stuff haven’t you? That’s my one and only ‘genre’ I’m really interested in (unless you classify ‘literary’ as a genre – what I mean is a lot of people really like thrillers, or romance, or ‘chick lit’ or whatever – for me it’s horror). Are you planning on putting any of that out? I saw you’d had a few things out in magazines…

  5. James Everington March 9, 2011 / 5:27 pm

    Hi – I’ve done interviews for and although neither have been posted yet so don’t know what effect, if any, it will have on sales. It was quite fun to answer the questions though…

    Yeah most of what I write is horror, though I hope it is ‘literary’ as well… It’s a bit of an anomaly that I’ve had a non-horror story published first on Amazon. Not what I planned, but never mind. I hope to get some horror short stories self-published on Kindle in a few months… What about you, anything new in the pipeline?

    • Neil Schiller March 9, 2011 / 11:41 pm

      James, literary horror sounds like the perfect combination to me. Let me know when you’re putting it up – I’d be really interested in checking that out.

      No, nothing new for me just yet. I’m working on what’s either going to be a novel or a novella, but it’s nowhere near at the moment. I’ve ditched it twice and this is third time through. Feels right this time, but am only 3 chapters in. Going to be the end of the year at the earliest. I wish I had something ready now because I’m already getting sick of pushing the same thing over and over (I’m really not the promotional type am I? :D)

      I’ll look out for your interviews on those sites. Hope it does bump your sales a bit. How are you selling at the moment? I find it really weird and unpredictable. Last month, completely outsold in the US and not much in the UK. This month so far – the complete opposite. Bizarre. There’s no rhyme or reason it seems…

  6. James Everington March 10, 2011 / 5:31 pm

    Funnily enough, my sales are exactly equal for both the UK and US as I write this… Normally I sell more in US, I guess just because it’s bigger and the Kindle-penetration (now there’s an image) is higher.

    I’ve put a review up of The Haiku Diary on Amazon by the way…

    • Neil Schiller March 10, 2011 / 9:03 pm

      Hey, thanks James, really appreciate it. Glad you thought it hung together ok. It was never meant to be published – the original versions are hand written in a notebook I bought from paperchase. The only reason I even typed them up was because I was talking about the idea to some people on the Webook forum and they started contributing their own daily entries so we made a more general project out of it for the last couple of months of the year. Then when I put the short stories up, it occurred to me that the poetry product range was much smaller than fiction, so if I put something up there it was likely to fare better in rankings and be more visible. So it went up purely as a promotion idea to try and draw people to the short stories by a roundabout route 🙂

      Was thinking about your comment about putting other stuff up last night and have the beginnings of what I think might be another promo idea. Was reading an article today about people cashing in and putting Gutenberg works up for sale on Amazon. Because the works on Gutenberg are free from copywrite and are public domain, that’s perfectly legal – the same as Penguin or Wordsworth books publishing Jane Austen – although not a great business idea ebook wise because why would you pay for them when you can get them for free? Another thing I’ve been thinking of a bit lately is the idea of publishing old, forgotten cult classics like Rebel Inc. used to do. And then I kind of smashed the two ideas together with my ever present stream of consciousness about self promotion. What if I picked an often overlooked text from Gutenberg, re-edited it to take out typos and reformatted it to make it better to read (so it could be promoted as a revised, edited edition), and then add an intro to it explaining why it deserves more attention that it gets, maybe write a short story of my own with a note as to how the classic piece inspired it, and stick it all together? Better still, what if a few people did the same thing for a collection of stuff. It works as a sampler for new writers, introduces older texts to new readers, draws in people interested in new writing, fans of the older writers covered, those interested in finding stuff a little bit obscure, cheap kindlers, people just intrigued by the idea etc. What do you reckon? Good idea or bad idea?

      I’m really interested in Jack London – think he is massively overlooked and people just think ‘White Fang’ or ‘Call of the Wild’. But the rest of his stuff is amazing – really radical for its day, even now: left wing, riotous, a bit out there. His novella ‘Before Adam’ is one of the most original books I’ve ever read. If I covered that (it’s about 100 pages) with a short intro/essay on London (in particular the book itself) and then something short kind of inspired by it or similar in tone at least, get another 2 or 3 people interested in adding their bits to it, I reckon that’s probably worth 70p or £1 on Kindle. A new cover, a new angle in promoting the old works together. Ok, the 22p or 35p royalty split 4 ways is a bit meagre, but it’s more for the promotion than anything else, and drawing attention to something the contributors think people should be reading…

  7. James Everington March 11, 2011 / 10:23 am

    I think it’s a good idea if done right; I’ve downloaded a few of the free classics since I got a Kindle, but was left thinking maybe paying the extra money for a well edited Penguin edition with an intro, notes etc. would have been more worthwhile… So the idea would appeal to me; but whether that translates to wider appeal I don’t know. A lot of books, bands etc. I like seem to have limited appeal commercially!

    There must be quite a few obscure books by authors who are only known for their ‘hits’ – Mary Shelley comes to mind, I’m sure she wrote a lot more besides Frankenstein?

    I remember Rebel Inc, it was in a sampler for their books that I first read Richard Brautigan… who I believe is another favourite of yours?

    • Neil Schiller March 11, 2011 / 11:07 am

      James, yeah, that’s where I discovered Brautigan too. And Nelson Algren, Jack London, Emmett Grogan, Alexander Trocchi, Jim Dodge. It was a fantastic imprint.

      Mary Shelley is a good one actually. I’ve only read Frankenstein but I’ve had The Last Man on my Kindle for months and keep telling myself I AM going to read it.

      Yeah, you’re probably right, it would have limited appeal. But then, so has my stuff (even more so). If it attracted 3 readers it would be 3 more than I have now 😀 Would you be interested in doing something with it? No worries if not. I’m probably gonna do it anyway as an experiment, either on my own or with some others if I can generate any interest.

  8. James Everington March 11, 2011 / 7:06 pm

    It’s certainly an interesting idea – do you see it as a selection of classics short stories/novellas and stories inspired by them all in one volume?

    I haven’t got anything specific in mind at the moment, but will have a look at Project Guttenburg and see if that triggers anything in my head. Can’t promise, but we shall see…

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