The Importance of Amazon Also-Boughts
The Author Central program for authors
The Instant Bestseller Program
Amazon accounts for 40% of all book sales in the English-language market, and is the largest single account, on both sides of the Atlantic, for all publishers.
What we do
We make every edition in print and as an ebook available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. The print edition will appear for pre-order on these two sites as soon as they receive book details 8-9 months before publication. The information from Amazon.com feeds through to regional Amazons in France, Canada, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Australia, Brazil, Japan, China, India, and Mexico, but may not appear on some until publication date or just after. Amazon typically buys 85% of books direct from our distributors NBN & Orca and 15% through wholesalers. NB: To easily locate your title on Amazon please include title and author surname in the search box.
In the UK, Amazon.co.uk accepts two dates, release date when the book is available to order and ship out of the warehouse and publication date which is the official launch date. In US Amazon.com can only accept one date so the Amazon release date is set to match the Amazon publication date, which is first day of the month of publication. This means books can be released to customers in the month running up to the official publication date on the last Friday of the month (ie. a title publishing on September 29th may begin being shipped by Amazon.com from September 1st). This also means that US customers can post reviews onto Amazon.com from release date, four weeks earlier than UK customers (although Amazon.com reviews may be visible on Amazon.co.uk book pages). It takes a little time for all the worldwide databases to get information accurately reflected on their sites. Amazon may include an inaccurate publication date in the beginning, please ignore this, it will correct itself nearer publication. Other idiosyncrasies may occur early on, but should correct themselves with time.
Your Kindle ebook takes longer to appear, Amazon displays details of the Kindle version from four weeks before publication and says “Available for Pre-order. This item will be released on .” Readers can buy and download the ebook from the publication day. Other ebook retailers follow Amazon.
Amazon.com buys non-return from our North American distributor, NBN (National Book Network), at 50% discount on RRP. Omuni Barnes is NBN's dedicated National Accounts Manager for Amazon.com and is able to use NBN's standing to actively sell our books to Amazon.com through Vendor Central, giving us an advantage over many publishers who can only use Amazon as a marketplace to make books available.
Amazon.co.uk buys on consignment, paying 45% of RRP on books sold. We are on the Amazon UK Advantage program for publishers, which speeds up supply and allows us to exchange editorial, sales and marketing information with Amazon.
As a Vendor, we also participate in Amazon Marketing Services, where we can organise advertising campaigns on titles, please see CHAPTER 11: MARKETING ACTIVITIES – ADVERTISING, TRAILERS, PODCASTS.
Amazon.com.au only sells ebooks and audio books, not print.
Amazon prices are usually below retail price, but can also go above, especially in UK. 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. More in
Offering readers a few pages to preview mimics browsing in a traditional bookshop and has been shown to increase sales. We submit all new titles to Amazon “Look Inside” soon after publication date has been scheduled. Readers read random pages from no more than 20% of the text.
What you can do
You can influence availability status and stock levels. If you get your friends and contacts to order from Amazon, your book’s Amazon availability status will rise higher and the book is more likely to be picked up, stocked more and promoted. However, don't place large orders untypical of an average household—and don't let friends do it for you; Amazon monitors irregular ordering activity and will remove your book from sale at the least suspicion.
With well over 30 million books on sale, good reviews on Amazon are the determining factor in selection. With the "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" system a potential reader immediately has a choice. Even if they've looked for yours, they may opt for another.
Another reason why numbers of reviews are important is that it determines which ebook marketing service we can use for your title when it comes to the three-month review. The higher the number of subscribers to the service, the higher the number of reviews needed for selection. So encourage everyone you know to write one. Join one of the closed groups we have for authors, and review other titles coming out in the same month (more on Review Copies in Chapter 11). According to Amazon's policy, a customer doesn't have to have purchased the book from Amazon to leave a review; they just have to have an Amazon account that they have made at least one completed purchase from, and they must wait at least 48 hours after their first purchase in order to be eligible to post customer reviews. The only issue that may crop up is if two people try and post a review of your book from the same computer; as long as the I.P. addresses of reviewers are different there is very little risk of being scolded by Amazon.
- 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. A good article here: https://booklaunch.com/amazon-reviews/.
- If a book isn't automatically visible – i.e. in the top ten listing for a subject the buyer was looking for – a reader is unlikely to see the book or its reviews without being prompted. Social media and blogs have a better chance of getting review content in front of readers than Amazon alone. Also, if a book has a weak/irrelevant title or has been mis-categorised, it will be invisible on Amazon.
- 10 good reviews is sometimes described as an acceptable minimum to trigger a purchase. Many other book sites only consider featuring a title if it has at least 10 reviews.
- Customers cannot post reviews until the publication date; however, authors can post reviews through their Author Central account, separately for Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.
- Amazon has a stringent policy about honest reviews, actively seeking out and deleting reviews it deems from known associations (family and friends). It has also recently cracked down further by stating "people will no longer be able to give a free or discounted product in exchange for reviews." So it’s fine to give copies of books or ARCs away as long as you don’t require a review in exchange. Jennetta Penner recommends language like “I received an ARC at no cost from the author” – so you might want to ask your readers to stop using the word “exchange” in book reviews.
- Add any print reviews you get to your sites.
- You can add your best reviews to your book sales page on Amazon.
- Amazon policies on reviews change frequently. Check their latest Customer Review Guidelines (US here, UK here). They will remove reviews they deem to be biased. If two reviews of the same product come from a single email address, both are likely to be deleted. If you work in any capacity for JHP and have a company email address, reviews are likely to be deleted. Encouraging people to purchase a book as a “verified purchase” means a review is more likely to be accepted.
- The URL is the unique website page address found in the top address bar. You can copy and paste this address into your promotional activities (shortening as indicated) to help your audience buy your book on an impulse.
- Amazon.com only shows reviews which have been entered on that site. Amazon.co.uk only shows them in full where they have been entered on that site, but there is also a link to the reviews that have been entered on Amazon.com. It doesn't work the other way around yet though.
- Make yourself easily accessible by including contact info. If someone contacts you, ask if they will post a review on Amazon for you.
- And do not forget other key internet sites like BN.com (Barnes & Noble), Waterstones and the many other online retailers you and your network may buy from.
- Amazon charges publishers and other vendors for the Vine program, a service which pays “Vine Voices” to review products. This is expensive for publishers and dubious ethically. We prefer honest reviews freely given.
- 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. We as publisher have no power to remove negative reviews. 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.
- The main thing is: be honest. Don't cheat, you will be found out—it's called “sock-puppeting.”
- For Amazon reviews that you would like to see appear on the company website, on your book page, please add them to the Review section on your Book Details page, and they will automatically feed through.
- Become an Amazon top reviewer: go to the Amazon.com website, type in “top reviewer” in “web search,” and you’ll find the details. Aim for your badge. Do the same for Amazon.co.uk and the other bookselling internet sites. There are two different public lists of the top 10,000 reviewers; a classic ranking and a new ranking that are both updated daily. In addition to emphasizing reviewers who have been rated as helpful, the new ranking gives more weight to recent reviews and attempts to weed out friends who might be "stuffing the ballot box." Top reviewers have large fan bases of their own, with readers following their recommendations, and are often sent free books for review.
Tips on writing a great review on Amazon
- Include the "why": The best reviews include not only whether you liked or disliked a product, but also why. Feel free to talk about related products and how this item compares to them.
- Be specific: Your review should focus on specific features of the product and your experience with it. For video reviews, we recommend that you write a brief introduction.
- Not too short, not too long: The ideal length is 75 to 500 words. Video reviews have a 10-minute limit, but we recommend 2 to 5 minutes to keep your audience engaged.
- Be sincere: We welcome your honest opinion about the product – positive or negative. We do not remove reviews because they are critical. We believe all helpful information can inform our customers’ buying decisions.
- Full disclosure: If you received a free product in exchange for your review, please clearly and conspicuously disclose that that you received the product free of charge. Reviews from the Amazon Vine™ programme are already labelled, so additional disclosure is not necessary.
- Even if a review is one sentence, it still counts towards the overall number, which helps with promotion.
To count as a "bestseller", you have to rank in the top 100 for your category. There's more on Amazon categories and how to alter them in Chapter 5: Categories.
The Seller Central program for publishers
Amazon deducts money from sales revenue in return for promoting our titles to customers. We can't influence these promotions directly. If we find out that Amazon have picked your title for a merchandising program such as Kindle Daily Deal, we will record it in your Marketing Activities as an “Advert.”
Amazon offers other publishing merchandising programs. They cost between $5000 and $100,000 and are only worth thinking about once your title has held onto a top 1000 sales ranking on Amazon for a couple of months. These programs are run through our distributors NBN & Orca.
The Importance of Amazon Also-Boughts
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:
Also-boughts for The Pursuit Of Ordinary by Nigel Jay Cooper
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.
The Author Central program for authors
We recommend all 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.
For a great primer for opening an account we recommend reading blogger Jane Friedman's article about using Author Central, where she explains how to claim your Author Central pages and details countries other than the US and UK for which you can activate Author Central pages.
Click here to learn more about what you can do on Author Central US
Click here to learn more about what you can do on Author Central UK
We recommend you to:
- Sign up to the USA first and then UK and your "home" versions and complete as many sections as you can. You can keep the USA version open in a different window, and then it is relatively easy to follow the same routine for other nations.
- Click the “Book” tab and then “Add More Books” to include all of them.
- On Author Central US (not UK) you can narrow the category to increase the book’s visibility, and add keywords. There’s more on categories in the Author Guide/Categories & Metadata/ CATEGORIES and on keyword in the Author Guide/The Market/MARKET POSITION
- Author Central US has more capabilities than Author Central UK, including the ability to add Editorial Reviews directly. Add new reviews here, but be careful about adding reviews by fellow authors which sound too promotional. For your Amazon.co.uk account (and presumably for other countries too) you can add editorial reviews by contacting customer service.
- Click the “Profile” tab and paste in your biography.
- Add up to eight photos, and videos, Twitter feed, Blog feed.
Amazon run a giveaway program, but with books it's better to do it through GOODREADS (also owned by Amazon, more in Chapter 15) as it's more likely to lead to recommendations.
The Instant Bestseller program
There are various programs around 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, and punters want to buy the book to find out, and it tells you to start your own workshops on how to create instant bestsellers. It does not work for our kind of books; do not hand money over for it. Focus on building steady, sustainable sales, with the right kind of people who are going to recommend your book.
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. Track long-term trends, if you want to, rather than weekly ones.
- Amazon keep how they rank books as a trade secret, so no one really knows what it’s based on. 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 today's points. So it’s calculated as a rolling figure, usually based over a period of 30 days, but this keeps changing over time and between regions. The top 1000 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. It’s possible for your book to rise even if it hasn’t sold any copies.
- Because the formula weights sales by date, it favors 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.
- Sales decrease by approximately half as the ranking doubles. So a title at number 2000 is selling half that of number 1000. Anything in the top 10,000 could be selling 100 and upwards a month online, several times more than that overall, and is strong.
- It varies amongst the different Amazons by country of course, and by season, but, very approximately, the top-selling book on Amazon.com may be selling as many as 3000 copies a day (though to get into the top 5, a few hundred are usually enough). A book at sales-rank number 100 might be selling 1000 copies a month. 500 would be around 400 a month. 1000 would be 200. 5000 might be selling 100 copies a month. At number 10,000, 50 a month. 20,000, 20 copies a month, etc. That is in the overall category. But the sales can be much lower in the different subject categories, or sub-categories, sub-sub-categories, by factors of 10. It is quite possible to be ranked number 5 in a minor category one week and 500,000 overall the next. A spike in rankings could mean one or two copies sold.
- It is significant though, in that 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 this tends to become a self-feeding loop. Also, the higher your book’s sales rank, the more likely it is to be recommended as a “Buy this book and that book together” candidate on other popular books’ product pages.
- Results tend to be weighted against books bought at lower discounts (not a problem with us as we give them 55%) and at lower prices. A good way to check sales rankings on the different Amazons (USA, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Japan) in one go rather than having to look them up separately is to go to www.salesrankexpress.com, orwww.novelrank.com.
- Pre-orders are counted on the day the book is ordered, rather than on the date of the book's release. Which is some books that have not yet been released have a high sales rank.
- Most books on Amazon tend to take a year to reach their potential. You can also check sales performance over a 90-day period at Junglescan.com. These sites aren't retrospective, so for a more complete picture of your sales, sign up, and set up and track your book as soon as you see books being printed for the warehouses on your Production page.
- In the first 30 days of publication, Amazon lends more weight to sales of a new book and it is reflected in where it sits in the "new and popular" rankings. So promotion in that window has the most effect. It begins at the time of pre-order. Other self-pubbers tend to use a short pre-order time window, maybe a week or so.
There is plenty of discussion on the internet as authors and publishers try to fathom Amazon’s popularity rankings and bestselling algorithms.
If you plan to buy similar books to your own on Amazon, as well as your own, buy them together. It will enable your title to show in the Amazon "Customers who bought this bought these others" section.