So you want to know what it took to make the best sellers list on Amazon. Well, I’ll tell you (and yes for FREE).
The first thing you MUST do is write a good book. I don’t care how much you spend on advertising or how long you made #1 on the FREE list, if you don’t write a decent book, you will have a very difficult time making it on any PAID list. Having said that, if you spend time learning Amazon and the hundreds of book lists available to the consumer, you will begin to see there are certain categories that have fewer than one hundred books. So, if you write a book in that genre or sub-group, you should land on the “best sellers list.”
Nevertheless, here’s what I did. Prior to, and during the release, I did approximately five months of intensive marketing. All of it was directed to everyone who hadn’t already purchased my novel, Gray Ghost, or those who were considering making another purchase as a gift. I ASKED them to make a purchase on the same day. To magnify the effect of the Amazon analytic software (to demonstrate a lot of sales in a short period of time to increase the odds of making the list), I tried to get everyone to buy within the same one-hour time frame (12-noon).
To entice more buyers, I worked with the publisher and Amazon to get the Kindle price of the novel to .99c for a five day period (free option through Amazon but needs to be done by publisher unless you are an indie author, then you can make this happen with an email to Amazon). The paperback price remained the same. I would have liked to lower it, but the publisher said no.
I PAID for advertising for this event to coincide with the five day period the book was at .99c. These are the advertising groups/companies I used and what I paid them:
I used Goodreads ($10),
blogs, “Blog-Marathon” (free, time consuming),
Independent Author Network (IAN1, @authornetwork,$29.95),
DigitalBook Today http://www.digitalbooktoday.com/ ($20),
KindleBooksandTips http://www.fkbooksandtips.com ($20),
BookBub http://www.bookbub.com/ ($25)
Author Marketing Club (WLC, http://www.authormarketingclub.com ($19.95)
TOTALS: $134.90* It should be noted that accept BookBub and Digital Book Today, the others continue to advertise Gray Ghost, and we’re into month five on this budget…
I can’t give you the numbers of books sold for each advertiser because Amazon does not provide them to authors with traditional publishers and my old publisher would not provide me this data. Hence, I moved along and found a new publisher. I do know that you need to sell at least one hundred (100) books in a day, sometimes in an hour depending on the genre, to get on a best selling list. My book was ranked in the #200,000’s for paperback and #67,000’s for Kindle prior to the sale.
However, here’s the results:
Gray Ghost for Kindle made as high as #22 on the PAID Kindle list for Crime Fiction. It also made as high as #41 on the PAID Kindle list for Mystery. An unexpected bonus was the book STAYED on the list for almost a week, which seems to support that the advertising had a long-term effect on sales.
Unexpectedly, Gray Ghost for paperback also made the best sellers list. The book was full priced at the time ($12.95) and made as high as #87 in Mystery and #63 in Crime Fiction. This format, however, only lasted two days on the list. I suspect people were buying it because some enjoy a paperback and others were not realizing they were buying the paperback format. Either way, it was a bonus for me.
PRIOR to this event, I had approximately nineteen (19) reviews for the book (from date of release and four months into the project). After the event, I had fifty nine (59) reviews (from event to today). FORTY more reviews! This was an unexpected increase in reviews and as we all know, reviews on Amazon are crucial for exposure and sales.
During the event and for a month after, AMAZON began advertising my book to readers of Crime Fiction, Thrillers, and Mystery. I suspect their analytic software alerted them to a book selling well so they promoted it further. That’s the beauty of Amazon. They back the books that are selling to keep the sales going and to make more profit for Amazon. I also gained from this, as they were sending hundreds of emails out with “What’s Hot in Mystery” and my novel was the first on top of the list. That’s always a good thing.
I’m thankful my book made the best sellers list on Amazon, but it should be noted that it is entirely different to make the NY Times best sellers list. It’s a more competitive market and collects sales in at least five different markets. Totaling the numbers of books sold generates a list, and the NY Times publishes it. Indie authors make this list (Renee Carlino comes to mind), but the overwhelming number of authors making this list are in traditional houses, and when I say traditional houses, I’m talking about the BIG Five.
Whelp, I hope this info will help you in some way achieve your goals. My number one piece of advice is to write well and write often. you should also read a ton. All the hard work will pay off in the end. This is a very difficult business with lots of butt-kissing, cut-throat contracts, and people preying on would-be authors. Rise above it. There’s light at the end of a completed manuscript, story, prose, or poem. It’s your job to find it.
Fourteen years ago I set out to write a novel. It wasn’t on my bucket list then, but after a few years it rose to the top because of how difficult it had become. I wrote and re-wrote my manuscript for Gray Ghost at least thirty (30) times, many of those coming AFTER I had a traditional publishing contract and was only a few months from the scheduled publication date. I had every opportunity to quit on this project, and if I shared with you how things went down when it came time for Gray Ghost to actually see print, you’d probably wonder why I didn’t just give up.
The thing is, I was raised by my parents and family NOT to give up. I used every single criticism and hundreds of rejection letters to push me. It forced me to write better, which is what it’s all about when you are an author. I studied my craft AND the industry and quickly realized writing, or more accurately, publishing, is a cut-throat business of very few HAVES and millions of HAVE-NOTS. Once I realized that, I was better suited to develop a plan of attack.
I will feature what I did to become a marginally successful author through a series of blogs on this site. I am not charging for this information. Everyone thinks I’m crazy for giving my ‘secrets’ away, but there is a method to my madness. So, this won’t be the first time I’m called crazy, nor will it be the last.
First, my modest stats:
Beginning on October 31, 2013, Gray Ghost reached #13 on the Amazon best sellers list (Kindle) for Crime Fiction, #41 for Amazon best sellers list (Kindle) for Mystery, and #48 Amazon best sellers list (Paperback) for Mystery. As of right now, it’s still ranked #48 on the Amazon best sellers list (Kindle) for Crime Fiction.
Second, my appreciation statement:
Thank you everyone who helped me reach my goal of becoming a best-selling author. I really hope I write the second book well enough to honor my fallen friend and that it sells like Gray Ghost has. Stay tuned for updates about the second book, Collectors, as I am as excited as all of you are for its release!!!
I appreciate everyone who has helped me. I’ll be doing a drawing sometime this week (after today when the sale ends), for FIVE lucky people to receive a signed copy of Collectors when it’s released!!
Third, the first tid-bit:
“FAKE AGENTS and PUBLISHERS:”
If you are reading this right now you are on the right path when it comes to promotion because you are on a social media site (WordPress) and you are trying to learn something to help you formulate a plan of your own for success. That’s the nice part, the not-so-nice-part is there are literally THOUSANDS of fake agents and fake publishers (traditional and self-pub) praying on your unbelievable need/want/desire to get published. So what do you do to prevent getting scammed?
First, you need to research the heck out of the agent or publisher. Start by running their name through Google’s search engine. If they don’t pop up, they could be new, but they could also be fake. Almost immediately you will see in your Google search results whether ANYONE has a complaint about the agent or publisher. Read those carefully. Many times a rejection letter will be the issue, not the legitimacy of the agent or publisher. Everyone thinks they can write and should be the next big thing. It stings when someone tells you otherwise (and even worse when the truth is you may not be a strong writer, yet).
Next, try to put a face and person to the name. This means you will need to meet up, face-to-face, with an agent or publisher. This can be done fairly easy at writing conferences. There is a much higher probability that someone saying s/he is an agent or publisher at a writing conference is in fact one or the other. This is the case usually because most cons are done over the internet and e-mail scams and other REAL agents and publishers tend to ferret out the impostors at these conferences.
Then ask OTHER writers, agents, and publishers (that you know are legitimate) if the person or agency you are researching is legitimate. Writers groups, on-line groups, bookstores, and other writers tend to be close-knit groups. Sort of like a neighborhood watch. So, bounce your thoughts off them to see what you can learn or what they think. If they give you a thumbs-up, then you can feel a little better about the important decision you are about to make.
Lastly, NEVER pay any money up-front. There are various costs associated to self-publishing which you will have to pay, but make sure you have a contract with a reputable publisher before you dole out cash. In addition, there should be no up-front costs to an author in a traditional contract. If a publisher says they need YOUR money for promotion and production costs, you should have red flags popping up. You need to read and re-read the contract you may have with the publisher. If, and I say this very lightly, the publisher has increased your royalty percentage it’s normally because they ARE NOT providing promotions for your book. So, why would they ask for money upfront for promotion if they are not (per the contract) promoting your book? All I’m trying to relate to you is don’t be so blinded by your desperate need to be published that you get sucked into a scam. It’s easier said than done, but I’m at least one person in your corner.
So, what we are doing here is building a strong foundation for your writing and getting you set up to move forward in the right direction so you can focus on your writing, not getting scammed before your work in progress ever sees print. Stay tuned for more tid-bits.
c. L. Swinney