Learning how to promote your nonfiction book to rank high on Amazon should become your first order of business.
Amazon and all of their global website properties make up the largest book retailer in the world. As such, it’s imperative that your nonfiction title rank as high as possible in their search results.
In this article, I’ll cover the main areas that you need to focus on when you offer your book on Amazon, to ensure that you stand out from the crowd.
Split Test Your Title and Subtitle
The first thing people will see when searching Amazon for a book in their area of interest is a list of titles and cover images. Your title (and sub-title) is your best weapon to captivate the reader.
So, it’s imperative that you spend a significant amount of time, and perhaps even money, to make sure that you have the most compelling title that you can come up with.
The good news is, this is a relatively simple task to achieve. The bad news is, what you think about your title is irrelevant! All that really matters is what your audience thinks, so the only feasible way to arrive at the ideal title is to test it with them.
I’ll show you two options for split-testing your tile – one is paid and the other one is free.
The paid option is something that’s used quite commonly in the marketing and promotion industry for testing ad headlines. Yet, this is something that was used to great effect by nonfiction author Tim Ferris to choose the title of his mega bestseller “The 4-Hour Workweek.”
The first thing you need to do is to create a Google Ads account and then create a campaign with a single adgroup. In this adgroup you’re going to add a number of keywords that reflect the audience’s problem your book is solving.
For example, if you’re a nutritionist working in the weight-loss industry, and your solution is losing weight using a vegan diet, then you could choose keywords like: “vegan weight loss,” “plant-based weight loss,” “vegan recipes for weight loss,” etc.
Next, you’ll create two ads in this adgroup to sell your book. Both ads will be identical except for your book title. Finally, you’ll link both ads to a very basic dead-end webpage you’ll add to your website saying something like “Book coming shortly. Check again soon.”
Then, you run these two ads for a week. At the end of the test period, one of the two ads will be declared the winner by Google based on their click-through rate. Next, you’ll pause the losing ad and create a replacement ad using book title number 3.
You now repeat the test for another week in order to find a new winner. Then you’ll pause the loser and create a new ad in its place using book title number 4. After this final week’s test run, you’ll have the absolute winner as declared by a group of perfect strangers in your target audience.
To prevent runaway costs, set your Google Ads daily budget to $10 – your ads will stop when this limit is reached. So, be prepared to spend $70/week. Testing three titles will cost you $210 and 4 titles $280, but it’ll be money well spent!
The free option involves enlisting the help of 10 -15 people who are part of your target audience and who are connected to you through a friend or acquaintance but who don’t necessarily know you personally.
Basically, you’re replicating the paid test procedure we did above by showing each one of these individuals two different titles and letting them choose the one that resonates the most, the one that doesn’t.
You then repeat this test until you run out of titles to show, which will give you the winner. You do this 10-15 times and pick the one that’s selected the most. If you get a tie, then just flip a coin and chose one of them.
Create a Professional Book Cover That Rocks
Awesome! Now that you have a great title, it’s time to create a book cover that’s as compelling as your title, and for that you’re going to have to enlist the help of a professional book cover designer who specialized in nonfiction.
Don’t design your own cover and don’t farm out this task to a family member or a friend – it too important a job to risk looking amateurish. Your book cover is the most visually impacting part of your book; don’t underestimate its power to sell.
Your book cover needs to pass a very high bar that only a professional can achieve, because it’ll appear side-by-side on Amazon searches with traditionally published books. You have no choice but to be competitive here – don’t cut corners.
Nail Your Marketing Messaging
Now that searchers are captivated by your book cover and title, they’re going to click on it and land on your Amazon book page. Once they do, the next thing they’ll see is your book’s description.
Here you’ll need help from the experts as well, unless you’re a professional book promoter. Marketing copy is more art than science, so I recommend that you seek the help of a competent book-promotion consultant to help you get this done right.
I’ve written a companion article that gives you tips and guidance on how to find the right help in this important area. It’s entitled How to Find The Best Book Marketing Services For Nonfiction.
Nail Your Metadata
Now it’s time to work on your book category. When you publish your book on Amazon through their Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform, you’ll be allowed to enter up to two categories, but there are ways to increase this number up to ten.
The categories that you select will make a big difference on how your book is ranked by the platform and this is quite a complex task. However, let me point you to an excellent article here by KDP expert Dave Chesson, where he explains how to select the best Amazon categories for your book.
He also has a special calculator on his site to figure out the sub-categories that are the most likely to land your book on one of Amazon’s many bestseller lists with the least amount of books sold.
The takeaway is that it’s better to list your book on less competitive sub-categories that on highly competitive parent categories because the number of daily book sales to make it onto their bestseller lists is much lower on the sub-categories.
Nail Your Amazon Keywords
Next, it’s time to focus on search keywords. The KDP platform allows you to enter 7 keywords for each book title. Since Amazon is really a search engine for books, you’ll need to do some keyword research to find out what readers are typing to find books in your subject matter.
This is an area where expert help will come in handy, and my advice is to seek the help of a qualified book-promotion consultant (read my article referenced above). Having the right Amazon keywords will ensure you book shows up on user searches.
Create an Author Page in Author Central
Once you create your KDP account, you’ll be able to create your author page with Amazon’s Author Central. Here you’ll be able to add all your author relevant information for your readers, such as:
- Your bio
- Your blog
- Upcoming public speaking events
Amazon refers to their Author Central pages as the author’s homepage on Amazon.com, accessible to millions of readers. It can definitely become a great asset if you keep it full of relevant author information, author communications, and always up to date.
Like any other webpage, you don’t want it to become a static page so make sure that you revisit your Author Central page regularly and keep if fresh with new information, new photos and new videos.
Get Lots of Amazon Reviews
I’ve left the best for last. Amazon reviews are the main ranking driver for their algorithm and the number of positive reviews that your book gets in the first 30 days is instrumental for the algorithm to determine whether your book will rank high on search results or be destined to obscurity.
For this reason, it’s imperative that you have a well-planned and executed Amazon review strategy by enlisting a team of early readers who will act as your initial reviewers in order to give your title a boost.
Now, this algorithm is subject to gaming and in order to prevent abuse with illegal tactics like review farms, purchased reviews, fake reviews, etc., Amazon has instituted a number of checks and balances to reduce the chances of wrong doing.
If these checks and balances are violated, then reviews are automatically deleted by the software. So, in order to make sure that your advance reading group is compliant, read the review rules in at the bottom of my companion article:
The bottom line
Amazon wants the reviewing experience to be as honest as possible in order to improve their customer experience, so follow the basic guideline below and you’ll be fine:
Provide advance review copies to members of your target audience who aren’t friends, family or direct business associates. Friends of friends and friends of business associates are perfectly okay.
What you don’t want to do is to be able to influence the review in any way, and even if you don’t “ask” your friends or associates to give you a nice review, chances are they will anyway.
Amazon changed the game forever when it comes to how books are sold, and it’s in your best interest to do everything in your power to make your book rank high on their online bookstore.
Follow the above tips and you’ll be head and shoulders ahead of most authors who publish independently on Amazon.
All the best!
If you enjoyed this article and are in the process of self-publishing a nonfiction book, be sure to check out my free nonfiction success guide, drawn from years of experience editing books for bestselling authors (including a New York Times bestseller) and ghostwriting for CEOs and politicians. Simply click here to get instant access.
Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or a specific need that I can help you address – I operate an author services firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners who want to publish books as a calling card for prospects, to establish their status as an expert or to just to generate additional leads for their businesses.
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Bennett R. Coles is an award-winning author of six books published through Harper Collins (New York) and Titan Publishing Group (London). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press, editor for multiple bestselling authors (including a NY Times bestseller), ghostwriter for CEOs and politicians and the founder of Cascadia Author Services, a boutique full-service firm that specializes in premium author services specifically designed for busy professionals. Our end-to-end services include writer coaching, ghostwriting, editing, proofing, cover design, book layout, eBook production, marketing, printing and distribution.