In this section:
Love it or hate it, writers and publishers have to engage with Amazon.
Amazon accounts for almost 50% of all book sales and 83% of all book sales in the US market, and is the largest single account, on both sides of the Atlantic, for all publishers.
We make every print and ebook edition available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.
The information from Amazon.com feeds through to regional Amazons in France, Canada, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Australia, Brazil, Japan, China, India, and Mexico.
This means people in those countries can order the book from the US site.
The print edition of your book will appear for pre-order on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com as soon as they receive book details, roughly 8-9 months before publication.
As it takes a bit of time for data to appear on Amazon, sometimes your print edition may be listed Amazon.com before Amazon.co.uk, or vice-versa. You will only be able to see the pre-order button for your book on the Amazon site in your region. If you're in the UK, you will not see the pre-order button on the US site, and vice versa; in most cases you will not be able to find your book on an Amazon site outside your region, but it will be visible to those searching from within that region.
Your Kindle ebook is usually available for pre-order four weeks before publication. Other ebook retailers usually follow Amazon in this.
Your book may not appear on Amazon’s websites in France, Canada, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Australia, Brazil, Japan, China, India, and Mexico until your publication date or just after.
Sometimes, Amazon may include an inaccurate publication date when your data is first uploaded. This is because It takes a little time for all the worldwide databases to get information accurately reflected on their sites. Please ignore this; it will correct itself nearer publication.
In the United Kingdom (on amazon.co.uk), your publication date could be one of two dates:
Your Amazon US publication date is also the first of the following month. The Amazon UK data feed accepts two dates: availability and publication, but Amazon US accepts only one. To align the policy of making books available to trade and readers after they reach distributor warehouses, we have to make the publication date the first of the month on Amazon US.
This means a title publishing on September 29th may begin shipping from October 1st.
This also means that US customers can sometimes post reviews on Amazon.com up to four weeks earlier than UK customers (although Amazon.com reviews may also be visible on Amazon.co.uk book pages).
It can be frustrating to look on Amazon to see that your book is a few pounds or dollars more expensive than the recommended retail price. Equally so, if you go to the site to see your book suddenly discounted, and you had no idea it was going to happen.
The truth is that Amazon and all retailers have the right to change list prices as they please, and are under no obligation to stick to the recommended retail price at all.
In fact, in 2016, Amazon UK started to implement a policy of deliberately not displaying the RRP, and regularly offering some books at prices £1 or so above it.
Since the demise of the Net Book Agreement in UK in 1997 Amazon UK has the right, as does every retailer, to sell books at whatever price they choose.
So while the recommended price is what you will see most of the time, it won’t always be the case.
If you do see a price promotion on Amazon, it is a great opportunity to promote the book to your networks.
It’s also worth pointing out that a discounted price on Amazon or any other retailer doesn’t affect your Royalty payments, which are accrued from the trade sale made to Amazon from a distributor or wholesaler, and nothing to do with the final price charged.
Unfortunately, there is very little we can do with Amazon stock – their orders are placed automatically based on current stock levels and previous purchase patterns. If you contact Mary on the Editorial & Production - Printing queries forum, she can let you know their last order details and the current stock at NBN, our US distributor.
A bug in the system for Amazon UK sometimes makes the pre-order buy button disappear from some titles approximately one month before publication.
This is caused by a fault within Amazon's system. It is an issue we have raised several times with Amazon and, unfortunately, neither we nor they can predict or prevent it from happening.
Pre-orders made before the button disappears are not affected.
Our Sales Coordinator checks Amazon UK pre-order listings for every title around a month before publication, and if necessary submits a complaint to Amazon support, who immediately reinstate the pre-order button for any affected titles.
We hope it won't happen for your book, but if you notice this problem has occurred, alert us on the HELP forum in Sales & Distribution/ Sales Online.
Please note: If you are searching for your pre-order title on Amazon in a region other than your own (i.e. searching Amazon USA from the UK or vice versa), you may not find it, or you may see it come up as unavailable. Don't be too concerned about this – readers in that region will be able to find it and pre-order.
If you receive a new review of special note, you can add it to the Editorial Reviews on the Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk etc. To do this you need an Amazon Author Central Account (see below).
NB. Sometimes a glitch on Amazon.com causes a book not to appear in searches. If you experience this problem, please go to your Browser History, select Clear Browsing Data, and delete your browser cache and cookies. Then try your search on Amazon.com again, making sure to use book title and author surname. If the problem persists, please let us know on the Sales & Distribution/ Sales Online forum.
When you filled our your proposal, you selected three BISAC categories, which we then used when distributing your book to online databases worldwide, including Amazon.
But the moment readers on Amazon start searching for your book, browsing for it in a category, landing on its page, pre-ordering and ordering, the initial BISAC categories are very unlikely to map exactly onto the categories in which your book is ranked on Amazon, Google, Apple and other retailers. The automated search engine algorithms kick in, tracking customers' browse paths and buying patterns and override the BISAC we supply.
This process is highly automated, and categories vary by retailer and by region. In some categories, like History, Amazon's sub-categories will go deeper than the BISAC.
If you want to change your Amazon categories you can recommend changes to bibliographic data, including your paperback categories, on Amazon.com via an Author Central account; you can request additional categories or removal. You cannot change Kindle categories on Amazon.com. For Amazon UK, if your browse categories are wildly wrong, please contact us through the Author Forum in Sales & Distribution/Sales Online; we can ask Amazon to change categories for your paperback but not the Kindle version of the book in the UK. However, be warned, Amazon will remove a category more easily than add one; changes can take several weeks to feed through and aren’t guaranteed.
Amazon reviews influence sales more than the reviews written by professionals in newspapers. Many buyers on Amazon make their choice on the basis of reviews and 10 good reviews is sometimes described as an acceptable minimum to trigger a purchase. We would go further. We think, for you, as an author, 50 is the magic number. Once your book receives over 50 reviews Amazon is likely to promote it across the site and over 75, very likely to. Having lots of Amazon reviews also opens doors to ebook marketing services. For instance, it is hard to get a promotion on a site like BookBub without at least 50 reviews. People follow the herd – if they see a lot of reviews for your book, and many of them are good, they are more likely to want to buy it. Basically, working to encourage reviews on Amazon is a priority for you as an author
Customer Reviews are meant to give customers genuine product feedback from fellow shoppers.
Our goal is to capture all the energy and enthusiasm (both favorable and critical) that customers have about a product while avoiding use of reviews to outright advertise, promote and especially mislead. We have a zero tolerance policy for any review designed to mislead or manipulate customers.
Customer Reviews help customers learn more about the product or genre, hear the reasons behind your star rating, and ultimately decide if this is the right product for them or not….
We don’t allow anyone to write customer reviews as a form of promotion and if we find evidence that a customer was paid for a review, we’ll remove it.
If you have a direct or indirect financial interest in a product, or perceived to have a close personal relationship with its author or artist, we’ll likely remove your review.
We don’t allow authors to submit customer reviews on their own books even when they disclose their identity.
Amazon reviews are so desirable that people break the rules in order to get them. This can lead to reviews being deleted and Amazon accounts being blocked. Amazon changes their review policy regularly and there is often some confusion and complaint, especially when they delete reviews they consider fraudulent which are actually honest reviews. When it comes to adding reviews, you, the author, need to keep on top of what is allowed and what isn’t. A good place to start is Amazon’s actual policies:
Here are some key rules about Amazon reviews:
The main thing is: be honest. Don’t cheat – you will be found out. It’s called “sock-puppeting.”
We, as the publisher, have no power to remove negative reviews.
If someone has posted a review of your book that seems really unjust, you can complain to [email protected] or report it through your Author Central account.
Try to remember that you are not writing to please everyone. Besides, a good mix of honest reviews can impress more than a handful of five-star ones, of which customers can be suspicious.
These are from Amazon itself.
Author and Publicist Daniela Norris was advised to do this for her novel and she noted this: “20-25% of the acquaintances who say they'll read a book and review it do so, if you want 10 reviews after publication day, you should ask roughly 50 people...you might get lucky and get more than 10 reviews”.
For some email pro-formas, and more advice on this, check out Tim Grahl’s article on the subject.
Because, as an author, you need to get into the habit of banging your own drum. It’s okay!
When you get good Amazon reviews, tell the world.
Share on your social networks, quote from them, add them to your website.
Likewise, when you hit milestones (50 reviews, 75, 100) share the good news.
We recommend all JHP authors create an Amazon Author Central account to share the most up-to-date information about themselves across their Amazon books.
You must wait until your book is available to purchase on Amazon before you can set up an Author Central account.
The account connects your books together in an easy way, gives your readers more information about you, helps you build your brand, gain fans and learn about how to sell more books.
Information available includes access to your Amazon Sales Rank, Nielson Bookscan data for authors published in the USA, and access to all your online reviews in one place.
NOTE: Amazon Author Central Accounts are not yet centralized – you have to create one for Amazon.com (USA), one for Amazon.co.uk (UK) etc.
We recommend you to:
We also recommend reading blogger Jane Friedman’s article about using Author Central, where she explains how to claim your Author Central pages and gives details of how you can activate your page in countries other than the UK and USA.
More useful links:
There are various programs offered by freelance PR and self-published authors, which you have to pay to join, which tell you how to create an instant Amazon bestseller.
They revolve around borrowing other people’s mailing lists, getting them all to buy your book on the same day, and offering them in return free material, usually ebooks, or vouchers for a workshop, or similar.
Treat with caution.
It is a bit like pyramid selling, it tends to work for books that tell you how to get rich. You buy the book to find out, and the book tells you to start your own workshops on how to get rich.
It does not work for our kind of books.
Do not hand money over for them.
Focus on building steady, sustainable sales, with the right kind of people who are going to recommend your book.
Amazon keep their ranking method a trade secret, so no one really knows what it’s based on.
If you learn one thing about Amazon rankings, let it be this:
Because the formula weights sales by date, it favours steady sales over a dramatic surge. Publishing success is a marathon rather than a sprint. It takes half as many sales to sustain a rank as it takes to get there.
The common understanding is that each sale counts as one point toward a rank score. Each day, the preceding day’s score decreases by half, and is added to the current day’s points.
So the ranking score is a rolling figure, usually based over a period of 30 days, (though this keeps changing over time and between regions.)
The top 1000 titles are recalculated hourly.
The next block, up to 10,000, are recalculated weekly, while the rest get checked monthly.
A book with no sales ranking has not sold a copy.
It’s not quite as simple as that, though, because as your book rises in the ranks, it will displace others, and similarly your book may be pushed downwards.
Sales decrease by approximately half as the ranking doubles. So a title at number 2000 is selling half that of number 1000.
Any book in the top 10,000 could be selling 100 and upwards a month online, several times more than that overall, and can be considered as doing well.
As your book’s ranking goes up, so does its visibility, especially if you can crack the top 100 in any popular category. This is because Amazon provides hyperlinked top 100 lists in every major category right on its site.
Your book is more likely to be noticed by readers browsing the site by category if it’s on one or more of those lists, and the more likely it is to be recommended as a “Buy this book and that book together” candidate on other popular books’ product pages.
This tends to become a self-feeding loop - the higher you climb, the more people see and buy your book, so the higher you climb.
7 other key points about Amazon ranking:
Don’t get too obsessed, and do not worry about short-term movements.
It is like the stock market – downs as well as ups. The sales ranking function is programmed to have a short memory. If you’re going to track it, track long-term trends, if you want to, rather than weekly ones.
It is vital that your book is categorized properly. If it isn’t, it can come back to haunt you.
For instance, the wrong category can negatively influence the also-boughts section of your Amazon page.
When you look for something on Amazon, you will always see the section of their site that says What other items do customers buy after viewing this item? followed by a list of books:
We call these books also-boughts, and if your book shows up here it will drive your sales across Amazon.
If your book is categorized properly, when you look at your book the also-boughts should make sense, and in real life, people who buy your books will also be buying similar ones.
Say you use a marketing website like BookBub to do promotion, and you don’t place your book in a category which is true for it (because the correct category might not be available), you can accidentally destroy your also-boughts, and, subsequently, your sales.
For example, if you have a thriller and you promote it in a romance newsletter because there is a romance in it, and many people receive the marketing email and go out and buy a bunch of romances and your thriller, then romances will show up in your also-boughts.
Amazon will start promoting your thriller to romance buyers. They will not likely buy your thriller, and Amazon will start thinking your book is a dud and stop promoting it.
You will then see a sharp drop in sales because your book isn’t selling well enough to show up in also-boughts.
Your brand is important – so don’t promote your book on email lists which do not focus on your target audience.
Check out our guide to Amazon categories here.