The Author Toolbox: Harness the Power of Amazon Author Central

When it comes to book sales, there is one giant retailer in the room that authors simply cannot ignore. Amazon. Making up the majority of the online book sales market, Amazon is where thousands of readers go to find a particular book or to browse the lists of best-sellers in their favorite genre or topic. (Of course, that’s a big reason behind marketing plans that include getting a lot of reviews on Amazon because it boosts visibility, especially when it comes to the “people who bought this book also bought” recommendations section of the sales page. But we’ll talk about that later in the book launch section.)

Most of Amazon’s search results are for a single book title, but it’s also possible to search for a certain author. Those search results can lead to the author’s profile, typically containing a biography paragraph and possibly cover images with links for all of that author’s books that are available for sale on Amazon. If you have multiple books out, pointing readers to your author page instead of a single title’s sales page would open up the doors of possibility for multiple sales. But there is a lot more potential hidden within Amazon’s author profile. (Not to mention it’s a totally free tool!)

Tool #1: Claim your profile as an Amazon author. First go to AuthorCentral.Amazon.com and sign in with your existing Amazon account information. (You have ordered something from Amazon before, right? If not, create an account.) It’s been several years since I claimed my profile so the number of hoops to jump through may have changed but the process should be fairly straightforward in order to verify your identity.

Once verified and approved, it’s time to start customizing your profile. First, add a headshot picture, preferably the same one you’re using on your website and all of your social media outposts in order to create continuity and reader recognition. Next, create or edit your biography paragraph. These two items will show up midway down a book’s sales page below the publication details including sales rank and above the customer reviews.

Tool #2: Claim your books. Amazon is smart but they might have made a mistake, especially if you’re a hybrid author using both traditional and independent publishing methods. Click on the “My Books” tab across the top and make sure that all of your titles and versions are listed. If not, click on the “Add More Books” button near the top.

In addition to claiming a book that isn’t listed, there is also an option to link versions so that the ebook and print copies are cross-referenced on an individual sales page. It may not seem like a big deal until you have a print-preferring reader follow a marketing link to your ebook sales page…or vice versa. Don’t miss out on a potential sale because the buyer didn’t have all their options listed.

Claiming your books also ensures that the full list is available to anyone who visits your author page or searches for you by name, but there is more.

Tool #3: Use the sales tracking statistics inside Author Central for more than an ego boost (or deflater). Once your first book is published, the next question becomes how is it selling? If you’re independently published, there are daily sales tracking tools available on your publishing platform (i.e. Kindle Direct Publishing reports). For the rest of us, we can only track a book’s sales rank inside Amazon for clues and wonder if a jump of 40,000 spots meant one sale or ten, especially since royalty statements come months later. Every spike in sales is a thrill and every dip a disappointing reason to eat ice cream straight from the carton.

However, instead of stopping by each individual book’s page and the page for each version of that book to experience the roller coaster of emotion, just click on the “Sales Info” tab inside Author Central. Here you can see the bestseller rank of an individual title or version compared to all books or within your genre, your overall author rank or in a certain genre, or even the number of print copy sales as recorded by Nielson Book Scan. These graphs are like that thrill of victory and agony of defeat on steroids.

However, keep in mind that multiple—and mostly secret—factors go into Amazon’s formula for calculating those ranks including obviously the actual number of sales, the number of reviews, how recently or steadily those reviews come in, and even the popularity among browsers who may have clicked on your book but didn’t end up buying. So don’t let the actual number be your focus.

Instead, look for trends. Was there a spike in the rank graph after you took out that Facebook ad promoting a certain title? Or did that ad seem to have no impact at all? Hmm. Maybe you should reconsider the ad’s wording, targeting, budget…or usefulness in general.
Did you pay for an email promotion service to announce a sale and see a huge spike in sales rank that lasted three days before beginning to drift down again? Put a star next to that marketing strategy.

Is there a title that’s beginning to look like an orphaned child while you’ve been promoting the latest release? Maybe it’s time to invest some TLC into that neglected book and see if you can at least see the graph hiccup.

Tool #4: Supercharge your author profile. I don’t have any statistics on how many readers will actually see your author profile, but there are some powerful (and free) opportunities there to build relationships with readers who want to know more about you.
First, link your blog’s RSS feed so that snippets of your last few blog posts show up here. Amazon won’t let you put a direct link to your website on your profile, but if your blog happens to be on your website…interested visitors who want to read more of that particular blog post will end up at your online home base after all.

Depending on when or if Twitter changes the required integration permissions, you may be able to display your latest tweets on your Amazon Author profile. This lets readers know that you are active elsewhere on social media and not one of those (lucky) authors who is holed up in a cabin somewhere working on their next masterpiece. With this knowledge—and the fact you’re tweeting about interesting things rather than always in sales mode—readers are more likely to follow you on other platforms where you can build a relationship that turns them into a fan.

Use the “Events” section of your profile to mention of you’re doing a book signing somewhere, holding a Facebook launch party, speaking via Skype to a book club, or attending a writing conference. Not only does this potentially bring another visitor to a book signing, but mainly this lets readers know that you like interacting with others and could be an interesting person to get to know. Also, this type of activity shows you are treating your writing like a business instead of a hobby…and implies that readers can expect more books from you in the future. Just make a note on your calendar or set up a task reminder to stop by at least once a month to update this section. Otherwise, a really-out-of-date events schedule tells visitors that you’re too busy to respond to reader interaction or worse that you’ve abandoned this “hobby” so they shouldn’t get too attached or excited about your writing because this is all they’ll get.

There is also a place to add video interviews, book trailers, or even a video of a book signing. If you have created an informal video sharing the inspiration behind writing a certain book, share it here too.

Last, there a newer feature on Amazon where readers can click a button to follow their favorite authors. This button is located in the biography section on a book’s sales page and adds customers to a notification system that will let them know when you have a new book out or perhaps even a sale. You won’t have access to a list to know how many followers you have or who they are, but it’s just one more way that having an Amazon Author Central profile will help support your other marketing efforts.

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