Wednesday, June 8, 2016

How Many Book Reviews Do You Need Before Amazon Promotes You?

So, you have a book available for sale on Amazon. Congratulations! However, you soon begin to realize that you threw a small rock into a big pond. It might be a great rock. It might even, in fact, be a diamond the size of your fist. The problem is that only a select few people, those already in your audience and whom you have promoted your book to, have seen it. Your ripples, in other words, didn't get you noticed.

Goddammit! My sales rank slipped again.
If you're wondering why your Amazon sales are low, chances are good it's because you aren't pushing the site's red buttons. Or, in technical terms, the activity on your sale page isn't satisfying Amazon's algorithm.

Please The Algorithm, And Sell More Books

For those of you whose eyes glazed over in math class, an algorithm in this sense is a formula used by a search engine to determine how good or bad a given page is. It's like that extremely shallow roommate you used to have who ranked people's value based on an arbitrary measurement of how much they made, how tall they were, and how many Monty Python references they could catch in a single evening. The only difference is the criteria used by an algorithm to determine how good, or how bad, a given page is.

That's why, when you do a Google search, some pages end up at the front of the line, and other pages end up 10,000 pages further along. The algorithm has decided that the pages with the right keywords, a lot of traffic, and regular updates, among other things, are the ones that are the best match for what you're searching for. And when we're talking about Amazon, the algorithm decides what order books show up on in searches, as well as which books appear on the front page, and in the, "customers who bought this also bought X," bar that makes recommendations along the bottom of the screen.

If the Amazon algorithm likes you, it promotes you, and promotion like that translates into more sales. If it makes it easier, think of the Amazon algorithm as the bouncer at the bestseller club. If you make it your friend, and it decides it likes you, not only will it let you in, but it will call you out of line, and tell you to go straight to the VIP lounge for being such a great author.

So, how much will it cost me?
Sadly, the loyalty of the Amazon algorithm cannot be bought. Nor can it be manipulated, since Amazon keeps the details of what the algorithm looks for a closely-guarded company secret. However, if you want to get the algorithm on your side, there are some things you can do.

#1: Sell Books

In some ways the algorithm is a self-perpetuating cycle. If you sell books, then the algorithm notes that you're a high-selling product, and it promotes you. While this might not help you much right now, it will be an aid if you start picking up consistent sales with the other tips.

#2: Keywords and Ranking

What's true at Google is true on Amazon; sometimes it's all about your tags. If you write in a niche genre, and you climb to the top of that genre's charts, then you're more likely to get extra attention. For example, you might be in the top 50,000 in sci-fi, but you're top 10 in steampunk. So that gives you an advantage. And, of course, if you have a title, a genre, or something else (like your name) that's getting searched a lot, that's going to increase your ranking as well. Because...

#3: Activity

This is where we get down to the bone and marrow. If your page gets a lot of traffic, even if you're making few sales, Amazon is going to notice that. If you change your price (especially if you make your book cheaper for a time), that could gain you some traction. That strategy should only be used every 6 weeks or so, though, according to The Book Designer. But one of the biggest, most important things you can do when it comes to activity on your book, is getting it reviewed.

Every time someone reviews your book, that's like refreshing your standing with the algorithm. It's significant activity that shows people are paying attention, and if people are looking at something, Amazon wants to sell it to them. And if enough of that activity builds up, Amazon is going to start letting your book cut to the front of the line, and featuring it near other titles, since it's clear people are reading it, and that it's popular.

How Many Book Reviews Do You Need?

The magic number, according to a lot of authors is around 50. According to R. R. Virdi (whose Amazon author page you should really check out), there is a definite difference in how Amazon treats you when you have 50 reviews, as opposed to only 10 or 20. That includes showing up higher in search results, as well as finally appearing alongside some of your competition when it comes to their pages.

Which is why I'd be much obliged, if I could persuade you to stop on by?
So, with that in mind, I'd like to remind my readers that if you love noir, steampunk, and stories that will gently wrap their fingers around your heart before squeezing till it pops, check out my book New Avalon: Love and Loss in The City of Steam. The first two stories are free, and it's part of Kindle Unlimited. If you do get your hands on it, please leave a review. Good, bad, ugly, or otherwise, I'd be pleased to hear your thoughts.

As always, thanks for stopping in to check out this week's Business of Writing post. Also, if you'd like to help keep this blog going strong, why not head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page to toss a little bread in the jar? As little as $1 a month will have a big impact, and it will get you a free book to boot! Lastly, if you haven't done so yet, please follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter to stay up-to-the-minute on all my latest.

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