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Amazon Basics: 5 Simple Strategies for Success

Amazon sold its first book in 1995, and as we all know, Jeff Bezos’s baby has now grown into a behemoth that dominates not only the bookselling business, but online retail in general. Because Amazon has literally millions of products for sale, authors have a wide range of feelings about the platform – often ranging from overwhelmed to discouraged. While there’s no silver bullet to guarantee bestselling sales, there are some simple strategies you can employ to stand out from the pack. Here are five elements that really make a difference in the way your book will sell on Amazon

1. A Movie Poster-Worthy Book Cover

In 2017, Data Guy reported that half of all print books and 90% of all eBooks were purchased on Amazon. What does this have to do with your cover? It means that while some people are deciding whether or not to buy your book while standing in a cozy bookshop and holding your book in their hands, even more of them are making that decision while viewing a tiny thumbnail image online. A powerful cover is step one to getting your book noticed on Amazon. The title needs to be bold and clear, and overall, the cover needs to speak to your genre and reflect what those readers like. Check out some bestsellers by other writers in your field and you’ll probably begin to see repeated patterns, themes, and images. Compare your cover to theirs and if you’re not a contender, be open to idea of making changes.

2. An Irresistible Title

Your title needs to be solid, but what’s even more important in today’s market is the subtitle. As self-published authors, we are lucky in that we get to play around with subtitles. Super descriptive subtitles are opening doors for indie authors in ways we’ve never seen before. It’s like being able to put your elevator pitch right there at the top of the page. Non-fiction books tend to do this by default, but too many fiction authors forget how persuasive a powerful subtitle can be. Plus you’re saving the reader time; if you write in a specific genre for a specific kind of reader, own it!

3. A Description That Leaves Them Wanting More

Your book description is where the rubber meets the road. If you’ve written non-fiction, your description must both solve a problem and succinctly express why your approach is unique. It should also include bullets that draw a potential buyer’s eye to the strongest features and selling points. If you’ve written fiction, your description shouldn’t be a summary. It should touch on the most exciting or entertaining aspects of your story line without revealing too much. Imagine you’re pitching the next blockbuster to movie executives in 250 words or less!

4. Smart Keywords and Super Targeted Categories

Effective keywords mimic what buyers use to find books. So they won’t be single terms. A shopper on Amazon isn’t going to search for “mystery.” They’re going to search for “murder mysteries crime thriller series” because that’s how our brains work. Target categories on Amazon mean doing your research. Don’t go with the basic recommendations the system gives you. This is an area that is going to take some work and research on your part, but one of the simplest strategies I can offer is to always search for the least popular categories that apply to your book and use those because you will have fewer books against which to compete for buyers’ attention.

5. Book Reviews That Prove You’re a Sure Thing

Amazon’s algorithm is designed to take notice of books that are getting purchased AND reviewed. So be sure you have a solid book marketing strategy to remind people to review not only when your book launches, but at regular intervals for the life of the book. Use email and social channels to spread the word and make the requests – people are often happy to review if you just ask and if you make it easy for them to do so.

These reviews help people decide more quickly whether or not to buy your book: people like what other people like. When an Amazon shopper sees a bunch of good reviews for your book, they don’t have to think as critically about their purchase. The less thinking a buyer has to do, the easier it is to make the sale. Think of those buyers, their fingers posed above that BUY NOW button whenever your energy or appetite diminishes when it comes to collecting new reviews. You can never have too many good reviews. Go after them with gusto!

Think of book marketing as an iterative process – lots of things will change and there will always be new things to learn. But if you can keep your book and its appeal to buyers front and center, you’re likely to feel confident about your efforts. The strategies we’ve examined today – a fantastic cover, a super subtitle, a description that leaves readers wanting more, smart keywords and categories, and a plethora of reviews – will always work in your favor and help you stand out from the competition. Happy marketing!


Penny Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. (AME) and Adjunct Professor at NYU, is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. To learn more about Penny and AME, visit