Amazon has become the largest book retailer in the world and has captured the majority of market share in the industry when it comes to online sales. So how does Amazon sell billions of books every year, and how do they continue to dominate all their competitors?
A few things stands out:
- Amazon’s commitment to great customer service,
- Rock bottom prices, and
- Proprietary innovations like one-click purchasing.
But one thing Amazon does far better than any other retailer in the world is use their customer data and algorithms to help their customers find great products and books based on their behavior.
Every time you click a link on Amazon, buy a book, leave a review, or give a gift, Amazon updates its massive database of customer information and uses that information to help customers like me and you find great products that we might not have heard about or purchased otherwise.
In this post, I’m going to give you an in-depth overview of some of the ways Amazon helps readers find books they’ll love on Amazon (and how savvy authors and publishers can use this information to connect better with their readers and ultimately sell more books).
1. Books “Related to items you’ve viewed”
See a customized example on the main Kindle eBooks page on Amazon here when you scroll down.
This feature on Amazon highlights related books that are most often clicked on and viewed by readers who also clicked on an item you viewed recently on the site.
A KDP customer support person also confirmed that the more often readers click on your book’s page on Amazon website, the more Amazon will recommend and promote your book.
The interesting thing is that very few publishers and authors know about this feature.
You can risk getting your Kindle Direct Publishing account banned for life by buying fake reviews and gaming the Amazon system in a myriad of ways, but I have never seen or heard of a service that simply clicks on titles on Amazon in order to take advantage of this feature.
I was skeptical about including this information in this post, because I have a feeling that pretty soon there will be services exactly like that popping up from people trying to make a fast buck without regard to ethics or Amazon’s TOS (Terms of Service).
There are ways, however, to legitimately use this feature to sell more books over the long-term. For example, you can buy traffic to your book’s page on Amazon.
You can do so using Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) Ads which create ad listings on Amazon’s website to promote your book (AMS Ads are available for most KDP accounts when you click “Promote and Advertise” next to your book in your KDP account and then click “Run an Ad Campaign”).
This guarantees that whoever clicks your ad is a potential Amazon customer and that Amazon will track these clicks in order to make your book more likely to appear in readers’ “Customers who viewed this also viewed” sections.
You can also buy ads to your book’s page from 3rd party advertising services like Facebook Ads or Google AdWords in order to get more traffic to your book page, more sales, and increase your rankings.
2. Hot New Releases
See a live example of Hot New Releases on Amazon in the bestseller lists for Kindle eBooks here.
Amazon features their Hot New Releases for Kindle books and print books on all the pages that list their bestseller categories on the site (Amazon has over 19,669+ bestseller lists for print and eBooks in the US. Read more about the Most Competitive Categories on Amazon here).
For a book to be featured in Hot New Releases, it has to be published within the last 30 days, or the release date can be upcoming. For example, if you make your book available for pre-orders on Amazon and the release date is April 5th, 2016, your book can still be featured in Hot New Releases before April 5th assuming you have enough sales to make the list for your book’s relevant bestseller categories.
Amazon only features the top 3 bestselling books by sales rank for each category in the main Hot New Releases box. You can click the “See Top 100” button on the Hot New Releases section to see other Hot New Releases or to check your books current ranking during a launch.
Amazon’s Hot New Releases rankings are a great way for Amazon to help promote new books to readers and amplify an author/publisher’s promotional efforts for a new book. The more copies you sell during the first 30 days of your book’s launch, the more heavily Amazon will help promote your book and send more new readers to check out your book.
This is one of the reasons why creating a great book launch can be crucial to your success when you publish a new book. The more you promote your book during your launch, the more Amazon will pick up the ball and help promote you book even more through Hot New Releases and other promotional programs.
3. New & Noteworthy Kindle Books
This feature promotes books that are featured in the Hot New Releases section of their categories and are among the bestselling books of all Hot New Releases on Amazon. This section also includes books up to 90 days after their release date.
If your book performs very well in the Hot New Releases section on Amazon during its first 30 days (at least #1 or #2 in your category), you have a good chance of making it into the New & Noteworthy books section on Amazon.
Being featured in this section can literally drive thousands of new sales for your book, and these spots are highly coveted in the industry.
In our experience, you need to sell at least two or three thousand Kindle copies during your first 30 days to have a chance of your book getting featured in the New & Noteworthy section.
4. Recommended for You
It’s here that Amazon makes recommendations based on items you already own. All your past purchases of books, eBooks, and other products on Amazon play a role in helping Amazon’s algorithm figure out what you might like to buy next.
This is another perfect example of how selling more books on Amazon creates more sales momentum and traffic for your book over the long-term. The more copies you sell on Amazon, the more Amazon will start showcasing your book on the “recommended for you” section for other Amazon customers who have bought books similar to yours.
So many authors get stuck in the “dead zone” where they never effectively launch their book and don’t sell more than 100 copies. They never get enough momentum for Amazon’s algorithms to pick up their book and start promoting it to other readers on Amazon.
If you’ve ever heard of other authors talking about earning passive income or “autopilot income” from their book sales on Amazon, this is why. Once you sell enough books and get enough good reviews for your book, Amazon will continue to promote your book to other Amazon customers, creating a steady stream of sales and traffic for many years.
5. Bestseller Lists and Categories
Amazon has over 19,669 bestseller lists and categories just for eBooks in the United States, and they’re adding hundreds of new ones each month. With so many bestseller lists to choose from, it can be overwhelming for authors and publishers to find let alone select the right categories in which to list their titles on Amazon.
(You can browse Amazon’s Kindle Store bestseller lists here using the navigation bar on the left side of the webpage).
To make matters even more complicated, Amazon’s categories featured on their website are determined by BISAC Subject Codes, an industry standard system for categorizing books.
However, when you upload your book inside your Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) dashboard in order to publish it on Amazon Kindle, you must select your book’s bestseller categories using Amazon’s internal category labels which often conflict with the BISAC categories. The results of this can range from a little confusion to finding that your book is listed in a category on the website completely different from what you thought you had selected.
Amazon only allows you to select two individual bestseller lists when you publish your book on Kindle using KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), but your book can be featured in up to 20 categories or more on Amazon. These extra categories come from a few special promotional categories Amazon has, as well as the fact that some categories are nested under various “parent” categories.
For example, if you list your book in the Regency Romance category on Amazon, here’s how it will appear on your book page:
Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Romance > Historical Romance > Regency
In this case, the Regency BISAC Subject category is the “child” category you can choose inside the KDP Select dashboard when you publish your book.
Historical Romance, Romance, and Kindle eBooks are all parent categories where your book can also be featured and promoted if it reaches the Top #100 bestselling books in those respective categories.
How to Double Your Book’s Exposure in Amazon’s Bestseller Categories
One great tip for selecting the right categories for your book is to try to select two child categories that are featured in separate parent categories. In this way, you can double the amount of categories that feature your book on Amazon.
For example, a book about online entrepreneurship could be featured in both the Business & Investing parent category as well as the Computers & Technology parent category.
At TCK Publishing, we were spending so much time sifting through Amazon’s various bestseller lists and categories and trying to keep track of them all that we eventually created our own internal database of Amazon bestseller categories with detailed sales ranking data. We created this database so that we could spend more time actually working to help promote our clients’ books instead of wasting time fussing around with Amazon’s complex and frustrating category listings.
We now offer access to our custom database of all 19,669 Amazon bestseller lists organized by sales rankings and more with constant weekly updates for Bestseller Ranking Pro members. Access to this data also comes with a full suite of training videos and tutorials to teach authors the basics of how sales rankings work at Amazon and in-depth tutorials that show you how to improve your book rankings and sales at BestsellerRankingPro.com
6. Customers Who Bought This Also Bought…
Every time a reader finishes a Kindle book on any Kindle device or app, Amazon asks them to review the book and also features small ads for books that are commonly bought along with the book you just finished reading.
This is another reason why writing a great book can be your best source of marketing. Most book sales are a direct result of word of mouth marketing. The better your book is and the more readers enjoy it, the more likely they are to share it with others and create extra word of mouth sales for you.
In this case, Amazon is helping to amplify your word of mouth sales directly by asking readers to review your book publicly on the Amazon website, and by showing your readers who finish your book what other books they might like to buy.
Note: If you’re the author of multiple books in a similar market, the books Amazon features on this page will most likely be your books! That’s why writing and publishing multiple books can be one of your smartest marketing strategies for long-term success.
If readers don’t finish reading your book, they won’t see this review page on Amazon. The better your book is, the more clearly it is written and the better it flows, the more likely readers are to finish it.
This just goes to show once again that the best thing you can do to sell more books is simply to write a great book.
7. Amazon’s Discounted Book Deals
Amazon is constantly testing and tweaking discounted book deals on their site. I don’t know exactly how Amazon selects books to discount, but in my experience they run their book deals without consent from the publisher (we’ve often found some of our TCK Publishing titles featured in an Amazon book deal without any advanced warning from Amazon).
They simply drop the price of the book (usually a print edition) by up to 50% or more off the list price and make it clear on the book’s page that the book is currently on sale. We’ve noticed some pretty dramatic sales increases when Amazon runs a discounted book deal (usually at least two to three times the normal sales levels).
As you can see in the screenshot above, Amazon was offering the bestselling book The Einstein Prophecy by Robert Masello on sale for just $6.99 for the paperback edition on March 28, 2016 (down from a retail price of $14.95).
Amazon’s discounted books are also featured on the main books page on Amazon in a section called “Deals in Books.”
These book deals are also promoted to readers in the Amazon store on Kindle reading devices like the Kindle Paperwhite and the Kindle app on smartphones, iPads and tablet devices.
8. The Kindle Unlimited Program
Amazon is constantly promoting and featuring books that are available for their exclusive Kindle Unlimited program.
Kindle Unlimited is a membership model for Kindle readers similar to Netflix which is a membership model for watching movies and TV shows.
Kindle Unlimited members pay a monthly fee of $9.99 in order to get (nearly) unlimited access to over 1 million titles on Amazon and thousands of audiobooks to boot. There are some restrictions (for example, you can’t store more than 10 free titles from Kindle Unlimited on your Kindle device at one time, and if you cancel your subscription, all books downloaded through Kindle Unlimited will be automatically deleted from your device).
Amazon also offers a one-month free trial to Kindle Unlimited to entice new customers to sign up for the service.
Amazon promotes Kindle Unlimited titles on every Kindle reading device, app and on the main Amazon website with a special Kindle Unlimited page.
Amazon also promotes Kindle Unlimited books in every Amazon search result with a Kindle Unlimited logo next to a price of “$0.00” for Kindle Unlimited subscribers. This likely results in more clickthroughs to your book’s page on Amazon from search results.
Note: Kindle Unlimited’s selection of books varies from country to country and is currently only available for customers in the US, the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, India, Brazil, Mexico and Canada. Amazon has plans to roll out Kindle Unlimited to more countries soon.
9. Kindle Countdown Deals
Kindle Countdown Deals are short discounted promotions available only to publishers and self-published authors who enroll in KDP Select, an exclusive 90-day program for eBooks that offers multiple perks for the publisher.
Publishers enrolled in KDP Select can choose to run one Kindle Countdown Deal promotion every 90 days for up to seven days. Kindle Countdown Deals must provide a discount of at least $1.00 or more for readers (and the sale price can go down to a minimum of a $0.99).
Amazon promotes the bestselling books that are currently on sale with a Kindle Countdown Deal on every Kindle reading device, the Kindle reading app, and on the Kindle Countdown Deals page in the Amazon store
Read more about Kindle Countdown Deals and the results they’ve been producing for authors and publishers since the program was released back in 2013.
Note: Kindle Countdown Deals are only available for books offered in the US and UK stores currently (at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk).
What Authors Can Learn from Amazon’s Promotional Programs
Here are some key takeaways from Amazon’s 9 biggest book promotion programs every author should know about how Amazon helps readers find great books (and why Amazon may choose to promote your book):
- All of Amazon’s promotional programs are designed with the intent to make it easier for readers to find books and products they will love. Quality counts!
- Amazon uses browsing behavior and purchasing behavior from customers to help determine what other books and products they might like to buy.
- Authors and publishers who play an active role in choosing relevant bestseller categories tend to sell more books.
- The more readers actually finish reading your book, the more reviews you will get on Amazon and the more Amazon will promote your other titles to readers.
- Your book launch (especially the first 30 days after your release date) is the most important time you need to promote your book as much as possible in order to generate sales, attract new readers and prove to Amazon that your book is worth promoting to Amazon’s 200 million existing customers.
- Amazon’s main goal is to help their customers find great products. If you focus on creating a great product and follow the rules you will be rewarded.