Amazon is the largest e-commerce site in the United States, racking up 90 million visitors per month. Of course, now you can buy almost anything on Amazon, but they started out with books. Amazon and traditional publishers have an uneasy relationship because Amazon has so much market power. They routinely undercut other retailers on prices and have more customer data than any other retailer. They know exactly what you like because they keep track of everything you buy. As an author, it’s a dream to think you could tap into that data to market your own book.
At least it was a dream. Amazon has been slowly offering access to authors to it’s platform and its sales data. It is now an outlet for authors to act as their own publisher (á la Seth Godin, the first author to use Amazon’s new “Powered by Amazon” publishing program), track their own sales, and interact with and grow a dedicated fan base of readers, who are just clicks away from becoming consumers.
Whether you’re ready to try your hand at self-publishing or you’re happy sticking to the traditional publishing model, here’s a list of the 5 things every author needs to start doing on Amazon today.
1) Sign up for Amazon Author Central: Formerly known as Amazon Connect, Amazon Author Central allows authors to have a page where they can maintain profiles, post videos and photos, link to their blog, and build a list of favorite reads. The most amazing feature of Amazon Author Central is its partnership with Nielsen BookScan, which gives authors free access to weekly sales updates. Why is this information important? Well, it can help you and your PR and marketing team target promotional efforts (interviews, events, etc) to regions of the country where your book is selling and also help you strategize on what to do in regions where your book may not be selling.
2) Join in the Customer Communities: Although it may seem a bit difficult to navigate at first (it did for us!), Amazon does have a growing community of forums known as Customer Communities, which allow you to connect with readers to share your questions, insights, and views about different books available on Amazon. Customer Discussions, which are a part of Customer Communities, are housed on individual book pages. If you have a book that’s already been published you can visit your product page and see what discussions are already taking place and then join in. To find the general Customer Communities forums scroll down toward the very bottom of the product page, beyond the customer reviews, between “tags” and “listemania.” In these forums, customers discuss topics related to the product area, covering more general questions or interests.
We recently used Amazon’s Customer Communities to help spread the word about best-selling Swedish crime writing duo Roslund & Hellstrom’s book Three Seconds by becoming active in the Nordic/British/Irish/Euro mystery thread, that we found under Customer Discussions on The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo page. You also have the option of creating your own forums so the possibilities are endless!
You can also immerse yourself in Amazon’s online community by subscribing to Amazon’s book blogs Omnivoracious and the Kindle Daily Post. Amazon has done a great job curating content for its customers. You can see what types of books they suggest for their Book Club, what books authors recommend for Grown-up School, and what author interviews and features are on The Writer’s Block. You can also sign up to receive e-Newsletters on different book categories such as Business Books or Mysteries & Thrillers.
3) Start Tagging Your Books: Think of a tag as a keyword. Items you tag will be used as sources from which Amazon can make personalized recommendations. Your tags will help others find your book and likewise you can see how other customers have tagged competitive titles. You can tag your book by visiting your book’s product page. You should also encourage your friends & family to start tagging your books. The more tags your book gets for a particular subject the higher it will turn up in search results when those keywords are used. Here is a list of Amazon’s most popular tags trending now.
4) Connect Amazon to Facebook: It’s still in BETA, but you can now connect Amazon to Facebook. Once you’ve connected, Amazon will be able to tap into your Facebook profile and make recommendations based on your Facebook Favorites and Likes, show your friends’ upcoming birthdays, offer gift suggestions, and more. It is important to note that your personal Amazon data will not be shared with Facebook.
5) Sign up for Amazon’s Affiliate Program. Amazon offers a great way for authors to monetize their website by providing links back to their own books on Amazon. When you send a customer to Amazon through your site, they give you a small commission of 4%, which can increase depending on your monthly referral sales. Gretchen’s friend Christoph Nieman, Author of I LEGO N.Y., has been using the Amazon Affiliate Program on his site and has told us it earns him enough dough to pay for his phone bill. Not bad! We also recently signed up for Amazon’s Affiliate Program, which you can see on our site. And the great thing about the Affiliate Program is you don’t just get a commission on the product you link to, but any product that person buys from using your original referral link during their visit to the site.