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.
At JHP we sell your book on Amazon.
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:
In the USA (on amazon.com), Amazon will set your publication date as the first day of the month the official date is in.
This means a title publishing on September 29th may begin shipping from September 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.
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, About Customer Review (emphasis ours)
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@example.com 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.
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.
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.
NOTE: Amazon Author Central Accounts are not yet centralised – 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:
There is plenty of discussion on the internet as authors and publishers try to fathom Amazon’s popularity rankings and bestselling algorithms.
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.