Sunday, March 10, 2013

Why Your Book Page is UN-Selling Your Book

In Jan 2012 I worked with a couple authors who were having a hard time selling their books, and I helped one of them hit Amazon's Top-100 in the paid store, and the other came very close. Since that time, I have helped other authors evaluate the basic elements of their Amazon book page that are actually "UN-selling" their book.

Believe it or not, many new and not so new authors are scratching their heads, wondering why their book, as well written as it is, is not selling. They look at their monthly KDP reports, and their Amazon ranking and wonder what's going on. If that is you, the problem could be that you are on the inside looking in, and are not seeing the big picture. The following is an example of such an author.

Hayley Doyle came to me for help, and I found several issues right away. She gave me permission to share the following "book evaluation" so that others can learn. Put in context, Hayley had a literary agent, but a deal was never struck with a publisher, so she went ahead and self-published. Since that time she has sold very few copies. This is the only book that she has published on Amazon, although she has another she could publish. So... she's a first time author, with one book published. This is pretty common among indies, so I'm guessing there are some out there that will read this and apply the following analysis to their own page. I wrote this book page analysis about a week ago, and we talked today about a few steps she can take to begin "fixing" some of these issues. As you read this, I hope it helps you.
Hayley, After studying your book I have found several items that may contribute to poor sales. Some are obvious to me, but there may be other issues under the radar that we will have to discuss. WARNING: I'm very honest, which is what you paid for. 

Here are my findings, starting from the top of your Amazon book page.

Title: The Day She Met Shirley Temple
Author: Hayley Doyle
Price: $7.99
Current Ranking: 845,460 in the Amazon Kindle Store
Print Ranking: 3,668,349

You do not have an author page set up. The author page is the first thing I look for because it's right at the top of your book page. You do not have one, and you should. Creating an author page is easy via Amazon Author Central. From AAC you can edit your book's description and add your author bio, pics, video, and social media links. Why is this important? Because with only one title listed on Amazon, readers have no idea why you are a credible choice or who you are, and have no way to follow you if they want to. The reader/writer relationship is more intimate today. They want to know about you, and want to follow you if they like your work. 

You only have 1 "Like". This is a sign of popularity. Amazon readers do participate in this. Seeing only 1 like may actually be a turn off. You need to recruit friends and family to like your page as much as buying the book (I "Liked" your page btw). How does this help? Amazon factors a lot of elements from your book page into your ranking and internal Amazon promotion. The more likes, the more Amazon recognizes your book as a valuable/likable product. That goes for the the other social media buttons. Use them regularly. Tweet your book page. Facebook share your book page. Pinterest your book page. Every time you do this, Amazon registers another tick up in your book's popularity. Do these things impact your Amazon logarithm as much as a sale? No. But they help... especially if they come from different IP addresses (yeah, Amazon keeps track of that so no sense in using 10 different accounts from the same computer). 

You only have 1 review. Reviews build trust. Too many bad reviews and sales will completely die. Lots of good reviews, and you have a far greater chance of selling. KDP Select is a great way to get more reviews. The only other option is to work your tail off, searching for the right reviewers and soliciting reviews from them, just like you have done with The Kindle Book Review--Great job! For additional info on getting reviews See my article on building a blog tour. After being published for nearly a year, having only one review on Amazon is a big red flag to me.

Price: $7.99 is way too high for a first time, self-published eBook--unless you are already famous or fresh off a reality tv show, or if you won an award as prestigious as The Bram Stoker Award. In addition, with the author's name as the publisher (your name), as listed in your book details, there is no hiding the fact that you are self-published. You don't have to, but it's not like a reader will know that your book is vetted by someone like Thomas Mercer, or Penguin and trust that the $7.99 is worth the cash. The length is right for the price But only IF you were traditionally published by a reputable publisher. I recommend selling no higher than $2.99 and maybe even 99¢ until you boost your ranking (where you will actually be seen). As a newer author, it is more important for you to grow your audience. So make the book affordable and include a link for readers to join an email list, or your facebook page. Put audience growth over profits, for now.

I have a unique philosophy on pricing. Read this article for my thoughts. No sense in re-writing this. In a nut shell, if you want to grow a reader fan base, don't over price your books. You may make $5.00 for every sale, but is it worth it when the cost is losing 100 readers for every five bucks? I'm all about gaining readers. That's my plan. Money comes with more titles, not an over priced rookie effort. There are those that will say, you are worth more, and that you shouldn't sell out to penny sales. Let them think that. I make $2,000 a month from 99¢ books, and that number grows with each new book I write. Eventually my stock price as an author will go up to match the size of my audience and I'll make much more then. New corporations start as penny stocks for a reason.
Cover: The Shirley Temple cover looks cute and all, but without the actual title and author name on the cover, I don't think the attempt at rectangular originality is going to work for you... yet another strike against you as a newbie... not in my eyes, but in the eyes of the reader. Look at the best selling books in your genre. They don't look like yours. Yours looks similar to the other non-fiction titles shown on your page. But your is not non-fiction?

Here's a book that one of your buyers purchased. It is not a historical fiction, and it is not selling all that much either.
Search results: When I do an Amazon search with the key words "Shirley Temple" the top three books are ranked as follows: 142,000+, and then 422,000+, 661,000+, and then your, which  is fourth, which is good, but you can see that you are being pigeonholed into a niche category (with no sales). The 142,000 book is probably only selling a few copies a month (5-10) and that's in first place.

This tells me that if your book is a historical fiction, you need to lose the Shirley Temple stigma. It looks too much like a ST non-fiction title. There is no audience for this topic/theme. Here is the list of the top-100 historical fiction kindle books. This is where your cover needs to be if you want to sell in this genre. I suggest updating the ebook cover, maybe to match your print, although the print version still looks a little sub par because the image has low image quality and is blurred. (no offense, just comparing to the top 100).

Tags: I usually comment on "Tags" but I haven't seen them lately. Amazon may have stopped that. Tags were a way readers can help categorize books buy typing/adding key words that they thought were relevant to the content of the book. So nothing to say about that.

Category: I don't know what 2 subject categories you chose when you published. These are critical in helping readers find your content/subject. Let me know what those are when we talk.

Key Word Selection: When you published via KDP select you were given the option to chose up to 7 key words. Go to your KDP account and find out what you typed in this section. Then, along with your two categories you chose, type those words (individually) into the Amazon search bar, and jot down a note about the top one or two book covers, and make a note of their ranking. If after doing this with those 9 words, ask yourself if you are satisfied with the rankings of these books and if they look like the kind of titles that fit where you want to be... which is in the top 100 Historical Fiction category.

Not in KDP Select: I absolutely think this is necessary for newer authors... especially those with only one or two books... that means you. Read the attached article to see why I think that. I'm just now moving out of KDP (with reservations) but I have 7 working titles and one more to be released (although my first is pretty much a bomb... but that's how I learned). 
Formatting: I see formatting issues on the first page in the "Look Inside" edition. This may also be a turn off for readers.
Okay, that's enough to take in I'm sure. Try not to be discouraged. This is a tough business and not all writers are fully prepared to be publishers just because they wrote a book. There's a lot to learn now, and after you think you have everything down (pub, marketing, design, and hot genre) it all changes and you have to learn something new. That's just the way this business works. Ultimately, you have to keep writing more books. Books sell books. I'll leave you with this article:Common Lies Self-Published Authors Believe. Read this as well before we talk. And on behalf of the publishing industry as a whole, I apologize that this is so overwhelming and ultimately frustrating. But in order to be successful, writing/publishing must be a labor of love. 

Now, let me know if seeing this book page evaluation helps you! 
If you think you could benefit from this type of evaluation or some of my other author services, check out my gigs on


  1. Jeff, this is one of the most helpful articles I've read on pricing, keywords, etc. in a very long time. Thank you! So how can I hire you to evaluate my books?

  2. Jeff great info! Thanks this is one post I'm hanging on to.

  3. Thank you (and Hayley Doyle) for sharing this info! Very helpful.

  4. Jeff, this is one of the best I have read about KDP and Amazon's SP. My novel is SP on Createspace (Amazon) and Kindle (and Nook). However, I have focused on finishing three more titles before concentrating on sales and marketing. I pinned your post to my favorites for later reference - when book #4 is ready. Great article.

    1. Thank you. Good decision. Books sell books, so good job on the continuous writing.

  5. Some interesting points, thanks for the insights into the mysterious workings of Amazon.


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