"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog: Understanding Amazon - A Writers' Guide

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Understanding Amazon - A Writers' Guide

Dear Fellow Writer,

Thank you for making this a fun and memorable week for me.

The Easy Way to Get Rich reached #1 and was sitting alongside Anthony Robbins, Steve Harvey and The Four Agreements in the self-help chart for a few days. That made me feel all gooey inside - to be on the same page as the giants was most humbling.

Not only that, you were kind enough to get Purge - my new thriller - into the Crime Fiction chart too. Actually above Lee Child for a couple of days! Now, 
along with the two five-star reviews so far, 
that's truly amazing.

The Easy Way to Get RichPurge by Rob Parnell

Keep writing!


Understanding Amazon
Understanding Amazon

Before you begin your next novel you must conduct some crucial research. 

Go to Amazon and deliberately study the bestselling books and their categories. Do this before you make a final decision about your genre, plot, even your characters.

Whilst researching Amazon book pages, you need to take careful note of the following four elements:

               1. The book cover
               2. The book description
               3. The Amazon bestsellers rank
               4. The customer reviews

The Cover

The cover is, of course, the window the reader first sees into your fictional world. At this stage you need only mentally file away what bestselling covers look like. The idea that you can't judge a book by its cover is a silly misnomer because that's exactly what people do. 

The bestselling books on Amazon generally have the best covers, simple as that.

Start thinking about the kind of cover you'd like on your book. Take screenshots or save the covers you like. Take note of the FONT used on bestsellers and the type of images, more especially the layout and color use. Determine to copy what’s doing the best on Amazon.

Publishers spend a lot of money designing great covers. You don't need to be a genius to work out why.

Self-publishers most often spend very little on their covers - with predictable results.

The Book Description

Study the book descriptions for the bestselling books. They're always sharp and to the point. They get you into the main facts of the story quickly with short sentences that focus on character arc starting points, location, and the book’s overall theme. They then introduce the obstacles facing the protagonists and hint at the unfolding drama.

Amazon gives you around 800 words for your book description - and smart authors use all of them. Even smarter authors put a good positive review from a celebrity just beneath the opening paragraph of their book description.

As an exercise, right now, before you even start writing your next book, write its Amazon book description. This is a great way to see, right from the get-go, whether your novel idea has any serious mileage.

Ask yourself: 

Does your book description make your novel sound like a compelling read? 

Are the characters distinctive enough? 

Is there enough going on in the story? 

People like fast-paced stories with lots of action and plot twists these days. 

In your next magnum opus, is there enough of a story arc to make for a satisfying read? 

Will you be relying too heavily on your writing style to carry the book idea? 

Would anyone outside of your immediate friends and family actually want to read your book?

These are tough questions to answer honestly. But a little soul searching now - and some objective reasoning - could save a lot of time and heartache later on.

I mean, really, what's the point of writing a novel that people are unlikely to read?

We all do it sometimes. We fall in love with our stories without questioning whether they have any long term merit. 

That's called self-indulgence by the way.

Even traditional publishers say that at least 90% of book manuscripts fall into the category of self-indulgence - with no real effort or thought put into a potentially wide readership.

When you're writing to support yourself in the future, book sales become imperative to your existence. So knowing exactly what you're doing first - before you start your career - is therefore crucial to your success.

By the way - while you're researching - it might be a good idea to type in your own planned book title. Just to see if anyone else has already used it. Do the same on Google too.  

It's rare that someone hasn't already thought of your title - but knowing is better than not.

The Amazon Bestseller Rank

This little number tells you much more than most authors want you to know!

It's just a case of understanding the numbers.

If the rank is below 3,000, (as in number 1 to 2999), the book is a bestseller and selling at least 50 to 100+ copies a day. Top ten sellers may shift 1000 to 5000+ a day.

Above 3,000 to 30,000, the book is selling between 5 and 50 a day. 

Above 30,000 to 300,000 and the book is selling between 1 and 5 a day.

Above 300,000 to 900,000 and the book is selling perhaps 1 a week, to as low as 1 a month.

Above 900,000 and the book has pretty much stopped selling.

Of course these are only rough figures and a book with a high number (that is: furthest away from 1) can also have sold a lot in the past but just isn't selling many now.

Plus, when a book is first released - and climbing the chart, the number can look deceptively low or high for short periods - because the chart is updated hourly.

You can immediately see that you don't need to sell that many books - say around 500 in a short space of time - to reach the top 100 Amazon books. And it's often the momentum of book sales - and an author's entire catalog working together - that can propel the book sales of all of the writer's books into apparent bestsellerdom.

This is because, when Amazon's robots see a book selling well, they will begin to promote it alongside other bestsellers - which increases your sales and pushes your book ever higher up the chart.

Customer Reviews

It's often said that the more reviews you have the better your book will do. 

Whilst this may be true in the long term, it's not always the case during the launch period, by which I mean the first month or so of your book's release.

It's more than possible to create a bestseller with only one to five reviews (not all of them rave) if your fans are buying the book simply because it's been released.

However, positive reviews are a good indicator for the reader as to the quality of its contents. Mainly because if the book is hastily written, badly formatted, and poorly edited, Amazon reviewers take great delight in pointing this out to people - as quickly as possible!

From an author's viewpoint, it’s good to study other people's reviews to understand what it is about books that people like or don't like. For instance I've noticed that some very long, well-written books get panned by reviewers for being dull and pointless. But other short, snappy books with clear objectives and popular themes tend to get rave reviews.

It’s interesting to note what is considered good and bad writing by readers. It's often not what your average writing teacher would want you to believe!

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell


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