How Amazon and Bookbub Will Help You Sell Books–FREE

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris:

Yeah, we know…

A BookBub feature will rocket your book skyward.

Stacked promos can help you tickle the algos and ride the tsunami.

A great launch strategy well executed can get your book a bestseller badge.

But all these options are pricey—especially a BookBub feature if you can even get one.

And they don’t all necessarily work or don’t work as well as you hoped.

Then what?

What if your Book is a Dud?

What can you do if the book you’ve worked on had professionally edited, bought a great cover for, hired a pro blurb writer—is a wall flower? The lonely, overlooked guy or girl all primped and ready for the prom, but who just doesn’t get the love?

What if you keep submitting and your book just doesn’t click with BookBub?

What if you can’t afford a BookBub feature even if you could get one?

Or what if your book just isn’t a hot seller in a hot genre?

Do you give up?

Do you weep, wail, gnash your teeth and curse the fates?

Of course you do.

Who doesn’t?

Or, after a bout of weepy, whiny self-indulgence, do you pull yourself together and search for other ways to get where you want to go?

Did You Know that Amazon Wants you to be Successful?

It does?

You’re kidding. Right?

No. Definitely not kidding. In fact, you’re wrong.

Of course Amazon wants your book to sell, because the more money you make, the more money they make.

But how do they do that? And how do you get in on the goodies?

Amazon provides every author with access to an exclusive book page whose content you control.

Yes, you probably have a website, but think of your Amazon author page as a website on steroids with two huge advantages.

The first advantage is that every one of your book pages on Amazon contains a clickable link that takes a reader directly to your Amazon author page.  The more books, the more clickable links.

That clickable link takes a reader or a prospective buyer one click to find out more about you and all your books. One click ease leads directly to your author page where you can post photographs, videos, and blog posts, where they can view your complete catalog, come-hither covers, yummy blurbs, alluring bio, and reviews, the good, the bad and the not terrible but not-so-hot either.

The second significant advantage to your Amazon author page is that the author page has a big, clickable follow button when readers can sign up to received news about your new releases and pre-orders. Make the most of that follow button by using your email lists and social media to encourage your fans to follow you on Amazon.

Why?

The reason is that Amazon will send an announcement to everyone on your “follow” list whenever you have a new release.

Amazon with its powerful marketing muscle and tons of buyer data will send out an alert to each of your followers telling them you have a new book for sale for FREE.

So be sure to claim each new release on your Amazon Author Page and take the time to polish your author page to a high sparkle.

Here is Amazon’s own guide to what your Author Page can do for you.

Besides Amazon’s powerful Author Page and clear guidelines, they provide the responsive and helpful Author Central for any issues or glitches you might encounter along the way.

An email or call to Author Central can help:

  • *Fix and update metadata
  • *Clean up boo-boos
  • *Untangle issues with the Series Manager
  • *Remove scammy reviews because Amazon hates misuse of its review system as much as you do
  • *Remove early, outdated editions of your ebooks (but not print editions)

This detailed, easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide by Dave Chesson will  guide you through the process of setting up your Author Page in Author Central. There are pointers about how to make the most of your Author Page.

Tip: I have found that if your first attempt to resolve a glitch fizzles, giving Author Central a second chance can result in a different outcome—so don’t give up if the issue persists. Just try, try again.

BookBub is On Your Side, Too

BookBub, with 20 million followers, will also put its powerful marketing muscle to work for you and your books. At the BookBub subscriber sign up, readers indicate which genres they prefer and where they purchase their eBooks—at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and Google.

Like Amazon, BookBub provides several tools for authors to get the word out about themselves and their books, and get their books in front of that large audience of readers. According to BookBub many of their subscribers are reading a couple of books every month. Some are reading a book a week, or even a book a day!

Bottom line: BookBub subscribers are avid readers and are always looking for new books.

FREE Bookbub Features

Along with its powerful, pricey, and hard-to-get Features, BookBub also provides authors with FREE ways to reach prospective readers whether or not you’re able to score a Feature.

Analogous to Amazon’s Author Page, BookBub offers an Author Profile Page with many of the same customizable features. Go to BookBub’s home page to find the Author Profile tab, and follow the instructions to set up your own Profile page. Any author — trad pubbed or self pubbed — can claim a BookBub Author Profile.

BookBub, like Amazon, will send out new book alerts to your followers and will help drive interest to your pre-orders.

BookBub’s own articles will step you through the process of setting up your author profile and offers tips about how to polish your bio with examples, and explanations of exactly what makes an author bio great. Plus a checklist to help keep you on track.

BookBub’s information-packed articles, like Amazon’s guidelines, offer specific help to step you through every part of the user process from setting up your account  to the specifics of launching a new book.

BookBub’s savvy book marketing team also goes into the details of their New Releases For Less program, tips on pricing and discounting strategies, and tutorials on how to target readers via BookBub ads. You will find all this — and more!, as the pitchmen say — on the BookBub blog.

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris

PG has become aware of discontent among some indie authors with BookBub. Basically, that BookBub is rejecting books for paid promotions it would have almost certainly accepted a couple of years ago.

PG hasn’t seen any online information he trusts as reliable about what’s changed with BookBub’s acceptance process, but a look at the free assistance mentioned in the OP might be useful.

New tips on Amazon are almost always helpful. Afterall, that’s where most indie authors want those who click on BookBub or other third-party promotional sites to end up anyway. (No insult to other, perfectly reliable online bookstores intended, just an opinion based on how many ebooks and other books the Zon sells.)

Note: PG usually doesn’t include links in his OP excerpts because they can lead who-knows-where. He’s left the links in this one because Anne and Ruth’s blog has been useful and reliable for a long time plus he clicked on the links to the OP and they link to the sites they describe.

23 thoughts on “How Amazon and Bookbub Will Help You Sell Books–FREE”

  1. This is so naive, especially the Amazon, stuff that it’s pitiable. 99% of people who check out your product page will never dig any deeper, and that presumes they discover your book in the first place. Amazon makes next to nothing on most indie titles; they’re there so Amazon can boast how many Kindle books you can read on your shiny new Kindle reader–that’s where they’re making money.

    • You have it exactly wrong. The margin on Kindles is much lower than on ebooks. Amazon is following the Gillette model: sell the razors at break-even so you can make bank on the blades.

      • Plus my guess is that most readers are using the free apps on phones, tablets and the like – so no Kindle sales involved.

        Still, it’s not quite the Gillette model: ebooks don’t wear out whilst Gillette’s blades go blunt remarkably quickly.

      • Agreed, Tom, and the razor/razor blade analogy is a good fit.

        To the best of my knowledge a Kindle Reader is basically an Android tablet with special-purpose Amazon software pre-installed.

        (It’s possible that knowledge is out-of-date, but it used to be correct.)

        • Hardware-wise, pretty much. With the eink screen replacing the LCD screen in tablets.
          Software-wise, it’s more basic: it is a stripped-down LINUX core. It ditches the entire Android package that tablets run atop the LINUX core and replaces it with a proprietary reader app.
          The original Kindle used cellphone components and the wireless version still does but the wifi-only version is really barebones. In fact, odds are that over 50% of the build cost is the eink screen.

          iFixit did a full teardown analysis back in 2014 and the entry level model hasn’t changed much since, mostly the screen:

          https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Kindle+7th+Generation+Teardown/29802

    • Peter – I note that you don’t cite any sources for your statistic (which doesn’t mean it’s not true).

      Even if it is correct, the law of large numbers means that the 1% (or less) who dig deeper may generate nice additional revenue in return for spending 15 minutes spiffing up the Author Page.

      There are a significant number of people who visit TPV on a regular basis who do make very nice money from their self-published books on Amazon.

      My wife is one of those. I’ve represented other authors who make much more than she does by indie publishing on Amazon. (The reason I don’t disclose their identities or any other information about them is that those authors are/were my clients and I am obligated to maintain their confidential information as private and not disclose it no matter what. I can ask them for permission to disclose some information, including their names, but I’ve always thought that was tacky, so I’ve never asked.)

      Regarding how much money Amazon makes on most indie titles, I haven’t seen any reliable information, but you may be right. Serious indie authors aren’t necessarily interested in how most indie titles sell, they’re interested in how their own books sell.

      From another angle, most traditionally-published books don’t sell very well. In the tradpub business, its common knowledge that most books don’t earn out their advance. That doesn’t mean the publisher doesn’t make something from those books, but not earning out an advance is generally regarded as a sign of failure.

      One of the nice things for indie authors publishing on Amazon is that, unlike with any traditional publisher, indies can see the impact of various promotion and advertising activities on and off Amazon in near real time (book sales updated on a daily basis) so they can determine for themselves if Anne and Ruth’s advice in the OP helps their sales or not.

      One final comment – Sturgeon’s Law applies to traditional and indie publishing as well as to a great many other fields of endeavor.

      From Wikipedia:

      Sturgeon’s law (or Sturgeon’s revelation) is an adage stating “ninety percent of everything is crap.” The adage was coined by Theodore Sturgeon, an American science fiction author and critic. The adage was inspired by Sturgeon’s observation that while science fiction was often derided for its low quality by critics, the majority of examples of works in other fields could equally be seen to be of low quality, and science fiction was thus no different in that regard from other art.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sturgeon%27s_law

      Sturgeon’s law has since been updated by others to state “99% of everything is crap.”

      • Amazon doesn’t make much money off books.
        Period.

        But their *margin* is much higher on Indie ebooks (30%+) than the low single digits they make on dry goods in general, including pbooks, where they make it up in volume.

        Indies, however, must be making them a fair amount on KU alone since they keep it running after 7 years and it’s delivering north of $400M to their authors. (Per reads, minus the bonuses to top performers which have been reported as mid-5 figures in the past.) It is doubtful they run it out of the kindness of their heart, so odds are they make at least the much on their end, and probably much more because the bulk of the moey in subscriptions comes from eople who *don’t* consume their “fair share” and since they only pay for what is consumed…

        As the IdiotPolitician™ said: “A million here, a million there, pretty soon it adds up to real money.” Bertlesmann and their partners in crime work off tbe same principle. (10,000 titles each selling 10,000 copies keeps them in business.)

        Books tbat “don’t earn out” for authors do earn a fair enough sum for the publishers. And every once in a while they get lucky with they shovel out and something sticks for a bonus. Even a loser operation like S&S managed to rake in a few hundred million, after all.

        Tradpub is all about volume which is why controlling distribution and shelf space is critical and why they hate Amazon and Indies because both are outside their control.

        And make no mistake, Amazon supports Indies because they’re insurance against BPH hijinks *and* they make them significant money. Maybe not as much as the BPHs but enough to matter, *collectively*. As in dry goods retail, they make it up in volume.

        • Agreed about the reality that books that don’t earn out can be profitable for publishers, F.

          As you know, there’s a stigma in the book biz against an author whose book didn’t earn out.

          OTOH, many celebrity books with big advances (see, for example, former presidents and presidential spouses) aren’t expected to earn out and still provide a good return for publishers.

          The last is effectively the publisher paying a higher royalty rate to the celebrity authors without doing so in the royalty section of the publishing agreement.

    • Readers and tablets are a tough market with lots of very tough competition. Margins are low. Add phones, and zillions of people have readers at no incremental cost

      But eBooks? Amazon dominates, and the marginal cost of offering an incremental book approaches zero. I’ve never seen any reliable figures, and don’t know how AWS is costed. So, I’m not sure we can say how well they do. Given Amazon’s revenues, eBooks might just be an end-cap to get people in the door.

    • D – There’s no question that being published by an Amazon imprint gives an author a boost, but there are also plenty of indie authors not published by an Amazon imprint that also do very well.

      To tell you the truth, I’ve sometimes wondered whether Amazon’s own inside publishing house, Amazon Publishing “APub” is really making the company much money.

      To the best of my recollection, APub was launched in 2009, the same year that Apple and five major publishers put together an illegal agreement to force Amazon to raise its ebook prices. Amazon formally protested this action in January, 2010, with a letter to the Federal Trade Commission.

      However, secret meetings of the CEO’s of each of these publishers regarding the “problem” of Amazon’s price discounting of ebooks had been going on for long before APub was launched.

      I don’t know if the rationale for APub was in any way related to the pressure Amazon was feeling from the publishers or not, but the company launched the Kindle in 2007 and I think ebook price discounting began shortly thereafter.

      I believe KDP was launched at the same time the Kindle was launched.

      • Of course being vetted might be a source for a boost, but I’m referring here solely to what Amazon is doing with its Star algorithm. In the samples I checked, I couldn’t find any correlations to the factors they claimed were influential, but I found a strong correlation between having Amazon’s Star algorithm give you a higher ranking than the raw Star ranking would provide and being published by an Amazon imprint, while indie-published books almost always received a lower ranking from Amazon’s algorithm than the raw Star data would have indicated. That trend held true regardless of whether books had relatively low or high Star ratings (both Amazon and Raw). Thus, in the vast majority of the samples I checked, if you’re published by an Amazon imprint or you happen to be MacKensie Bezos Scott, the algorithm is highly likely to rank your book higher than the raw data from Amazon reviewers. If you’re indie published, you’ll almost always be ranked lower than your raw Amazon review rankings. The best explanation I can think of for that outcome is likely also the simplest. I’ve provided a spreadsheet link on my blog to help quickly calculate individual examples–check it out for yourself.

      • APub exists because, in its current form, it makes them money.
        Don’t need to know how much to figure it out: Amazon bookstores may be pausing because of the pandemic but they wouldn’t have started and expanded rapidly if they weren’t.

        People seem to forget Amazon is all about making money: if it makes a positive net, it lives. If it doesn’t (or at least show a path to profits) it dies. Folks in publishing attribute all sorts of motives to Amazon but neglect their guiding principle: profits above all else.

        Just look at the various ebook efforts they’ve abandoned over the years; Kindle DX, KINDLE WORLDS, KINDLE SINGLES, etc. All dead.

        Its all about the money.
        And with Indies, some make them a bit of money, some (scammers) cost them money, some make them a lot. Collectively it’s a good business for them. So they keep it and keep looking for ways to expand its reach. If they weren’t making money they would’ve shut either APub or KDP or both ages ago.

    • Douglas, I looked at your link but got a bit confused as to your data sources. Obviously, the situation for “The Demon of Histlewick Downs” has changed since you wrote but it currently has 53 ratings and 28 reviews. One can work through the reviews and see how many there are at each star level but what about people who rate without reviewing. I couldn’t see any raw data for this: do you get the information as the author?

      Of course, as you say, Amazon’s explanation of their system is not helpful, particularly as they cannot analyse the contents of a reviewless rating for trustworthiness.

      • Yes, the situation has changed a bit since the publication of my blog post, which helps illustrate the point. If Amazon’s algorithm were actually predictive for The Demon of Histlewick Downs, one would have expected subsequent reviews to bring the total more into alignment with their predictions (4.0 instead of the 4.25 the raw ratings suggested at the time). Instead, as more reviews came in, the ranking continued to increase. Currently the Amazon ranking is 4.3, but the cumulative raw data is higher still at 4.4 out of 5. Given they started with access to the entire text, it shouldn’t have been one of their tougher predictive-algorithm problems. Either Amazon sucks at using algorithms to make predictions, or accurate prediction was never the point. Let’s compare today’s rankings:

        The Demon of Histlewick Downs:
        Raw Data Amazon’s Algorithm
        Overall 4.4 stars 4.3 stars
        5 star 31/53 – (58%) – (56%)
        4 star 15/53 – (28%) – (29%)
        3 star 5/53 – (9%) – (9%)
        2 star 1/53- (2%) – (3%)
        1 star 1/53 – (2%) – (3%)

        Still, despite 31 5-star out of 53 total reviews, Amazon’s algorithm continues to predict that the book is less worthy of the favorable stars and more worthy of the unfavorable ones. Thus, despite only 1 one-star and 1 two-star reviews, those two reviews are accorded 50% more weight than the raw data would give them. How many more 5-star reviews would it take for the algorithm to flip and start according more weight to the favorable reviews and less to the unfavorable ones? Good question. Conversely, say a book is consistently less-well rated. Will the algorithm correct to start predicting the book is less good than the raw reviews would suggest? Let’s look back at MacKensie Bezos’s book and see:

        Despite having doubled its reviews since my blog post the overall Amazon rating is still 4.0 out of 5 stars (considerably less than Amazon’s ranking for Demon. However, looking closer:

        The Testing of Luther Albright
        Raw Data Amazon’s Algorithm
        Overall 3.86 – 4.0
        5 star 28/63 – (44%) – (47%)
        4 star 13 /63 – (21%) – (22%)
        3 star 13/63 – (21%) – (20%)
        2 star 3/63 – (5%) – (3%)
        1 star 6/63 – (10%) – (8%)

        Notice that unlike Demon, MacKensie’s 5-star ratings actually count for significantly more under the algorithm than the raw data suggests, and the one-star reviews (of which there are 6 times more than for Demon) count for less than the raw data would suggest. The two-star reviews are similarly underrepresented by the algorithm. If Demon had been similarly treated, its current Amazon algorithm rating would be 4.54 instead of 4.3. I don’t know about you, but that kind of difference would significantly impact my chances of my checking out the book, which, I’m guessing, is entirely the point.

        You’re likely to find a similar relationship between Amazon’s algorithm and the books Amazon publishes directly vs. self-published books. Check out a few by Amazon’s publishing imprints (e.g., 47North) and see how they compare.

        To address the other question, to get the data from those raters who don’t leave a written review, mouse over the star graphic and the graphic representation of the breakdown will appear. Then click on the bar you want the data for (e.g. the 5-star bar). It will show you all the five star reviews, and at the top, under “Filtered by” it will tell you the number of global ratings and the number of global reviews. The global ratings include both the unreviewed ratings and the reviews, so the number of ratings without reviews is simply the total global ratings minus the number of reviews. In the case of Demon above, it has 31 5-star global ratings and 15 5-star global reviews, so the number of ratings that didn’t have reviews is simply 31-15, or 16. For purposes of doing the spreadsheet calculations, though, you only need to use the number associated with the global ratings (in this case, 31 five-star ratings). Repeat for each of the star ratings (4-star, 3-star, and so on), and, in 5 easy steps, you get all the data you need to make the raw calculation using the spreadsheet provided.

        • Thanks for explaining your data source: it’s obvious once one knows how!

          Amazon really needs to stop what they are doing or to give a much better explanation of how this works. I can accept some time based adjustments if the distribution looks fishy: if all the one star reviews are at or near the publication date and later reviews are much better (or vice versa) one might conclude that there had been some kind of campaign going on and discard/discount the old ratings, but that’s not what they are doing here.

  2. Some of this OP stuff is pretty basic, but here’s a question I haven’t seen answered: Q: How to determine how many Amazon Author Followers one has? I’m on my Author page and don’t see it anywhere. Anybody?

    Also, while I’ve never tried for a BB Feature Deal yet (so expensive), I do run CPC ads occassionally, and they do work, although the ROI is debatable because of the discount required. I think the more series books one has, the better ROI on BB CPCing Book #1. Ja???

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