Selling on Amazon and Giving Your Book Away
All authors clamor to receive the potential blessings of Amazon. But the ways of Amazon are mysterious and known to few (they even puzzle most publishers). Still, one widely spread belief is that you get more leverage and publicity via Amazon if you acquire a sufficient number of reviews.
I acquired most of my Amazon reviews by asking friends and family—and anyone who contacted me because they enjoyed my book—to kindly write one. I now have 83 reviews. A cautionary word here: A tempting, time-consuming, and self-destructive practice is to follow your book-sale-ranking numbers on Amazon. A marketing coach I met wisely said: Do not watch Amazon numbers—that way leads to madness! But it’s hard to resist: Some days I’d check every hour (they change hourly), and I would go up and down with the numbers. I’d even check books by well-known authors, and it was helpful to see how everyone’s numbers keep changing dramatically, even Thích Nhất Hạnh’s.
On the positive side, following your ranking on Amazon is one way to see if certain actions have an impact. For example, my numbers jump with Facebook ads. Every time I send out e-newsletters, I see a similar jump. And some radio interviews brought new readers for sure. Nonetheless, I agree with this quote I read from a children’s book author: “It’s hard to prove any connection between promotional efforts and sales.” The only thing people know that works for sure is to get Oprah to mention your book, which brings me back to that article from The Economist mentioned in Part One:
“Authors must court an expanding variety of ‘influencers’—people whose opinions can determine a book’s success. Once, a select group of newspaper reviewers were the principal arbiters of literary taste. Now, as the amount of newsprint devoted to reviews keeps shrinking, a host of bloggers and social-media pundits fill the gap. The most important are the celebrity endorsers.”
I dreamed the impossible dream: getting my book to Oprah! And despite many failed attempts, it’s a goal I’m still working on sporadically through six degrees of separation.
And so it went for almost two years, working about 50 hours a week: doing radio interviews; holding phone meetings or in-person talks with book clubs or faith groups; seeking new sales outlets locally and nationally; doing national book-club outreach; answering all readers’ correspondence and sometimes meeting with them; approaching spiritual/inspirational bloggers and other influencers; doing magazine outreach to reprint a story; researching big targets (like Target) and strategizing with my publisher; and writing e-newsletters/blogs. I also reconsidered who was my market and identified good places and people to whom I would give away my book.
Giving away your book. This is a big thing now. It’s easier to do if you self-publish or go with a major publisher who can afford to do this on a large scale. Some major publishers give away 1,000 books on the launch. Their reasoning is that lots of people have to read your book soon for it to really catch on.
Some self-published authors use BookBub to offer free downloads, or they make special deals with Kindle. This is a good way to increase your book’s outreach and readership. My publisher, being a small indie, was reluctant to do this, but I sometimes leave my book around in yoga centers, senior centers, doctors’ offices, and cafés with a note to please pass it on or leave for someone else to find.
Give away your book? Then, how do authors make money? For that answer, read Part 6: So, How Do Authors Actually Make Money? And, Is That What Matters?
© 2018 Rivvy Neshama. All rights reserved. No part of this six-part essay may be reproduced without permission in writing from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations that acknowledge both the writer and the title of her book, “RECIPES FOR A SACRED LIFE: True Stories and a Few Miracles.”