How to Increase Your Amazon Kindle Book Sales by 600% in a Week

This is a guest post from Tristan King, an entrepreneur and writer who recently published his first book on learning langauges on the Amazon Kindle store. Tristan loves learning and teaching foreign languages, and travelling anywhere he can use them. You can read more at http://www.languagemusings.com.

Note from Sean: While I haven’t personally jumped into the world of self-publishing, a lot of people have lately.  Some have seen success, and others not so much.  For that reason I was really excited to hear about Tristan’s experiences and the strategies he’s used to grow the business and exposure for his new book.  If you’re looking for a creative take on learning languages, I can’t recommend Tristan’s book and blog highly enough.

Recently, I experimented with Amazon’s KDP Select Program, a new system on the Kindle Store which increased my book’s sales over 600% within one week. First I’ll tell you the story, then I’ll share how you can do it too.

Hitting the Button: The Scary Part

“What have I done? What if no one likes my book?” I thought, finger poised on the yellow ‘Publish’ button. After 9 months of writing, the moment had finally arrived to send my book out to the world. Remembering the encouragement of several ‘real’ authors much braver than I am, I hit the button.

Soon after, an email arrived saying that I was now live on the Kindle Store. No going back now!

Over the next few days, sales trickled in slowly, and I even had one positive review. This was extremely exciting. I wondered what the next step was: How can I get the book into more peoples’ hands?

Iíd read about a program called KDP select, Amazon’s lending program, at which they’re throwing lots of money and promotion:

  • Paying members can ‘borrow’ books as part of their membership;
  • Everyday Amazon users can buy the book as normal; and
  • Authors can give their book away for free, as a promotion, for 5 days during a 90-day period. (The rest of the time, it remains paid for people who aren’t part of the lending club.)

The catch: it must be exclusively sold on Amazon. No Apple, no B&N, no PDF website sales. Exclusivity? Sounds like a tough decision, right? It wasnít for me.

Up until that point, through the Apple iBooks store, Barnes & Noble, and Sony’s Nook eBook store, I had sold a grand total ofÖ zero copies. Every single sale I’d made was on Amazon.

Given I wasn’t making any sales on the other platforms anyway, why not try it? I unsubscribed my book from Smashwords faster than you could say “why haven’t I sold any copies through you?“, and enrolled in KDP Select, making my book free for a 24-hour period.

Then, things got interesting.

The KDP Select Experiment: Results

After the first hour of “free” promotion, I checked how many copies had been downloaded. 50 copies in an hour. I almost fell off my chair. Yes, they were free downloads (i.e. I didn’t make any money off them), but I was ecstatic because it meant a) my book now had the chance of helping 50 new people learn a foreign language (this is the whole point!), and b) at least a few people were interested in what I had to say.

2 hours down, 80 downloads. While I slept at night, it was downloaded around 200 times.

At the end of the 24 hour period, my book had been downloaded 400+ times – a lot more than I’d sold during six weeks of being in the Kindle store.

After the freebie period was over, people continued downloading the book. Not at the same rate of 20-50 sales per hour, but in the following week I had a 600% increase in sales.

To be clear, weíre not talking Stieg Larsson numbers here, but for me as a first time author and newbie to Amazon, this was a breakthrough, and made me grin like a little kid.

Here’s what my sales figures have looked like:

  • Sales December 28th – Feb 15th:  25 (six weeks)
  • Sales Feb 15th – Feb 28th, straight after KDP Select promotion day: 30 (one week).  Sales have continued to trickle in since then at a much faster pace than before.
  • Total downloads in the month of Feb: 513 (some free, some paid)

Why Sales Increased By 600%

In my experience, four things contributed to the increase in sales:

1. People like freebies, and they like “expensive” freebies.
If you won a car in a competition and had two choices – a $20,000 car for free, or a $2,000 car for free, which would you pick?

Prior to this promotional period, my book was $7.99. When it went “free” on the Kindle store, it said $7.99 FREE. This meant an $8 ‘discount’ during the free period, as opposed to books which were normally 99c, and are then free during promotion (99c discount).

This, of course, doesn’t mean my book is better than anyone else’s which is lower priced: but it gives the impression of a larger discount. I suspect this increased the number of downloads.

2. Getting in the top twenty lists, and staying there after the promotional period
When someone downloads your book (for free or paid), it moves up the charts. My book was #1 in the “Bilingual” section for a while, even though most people downloaded it for free. This meant a lot more people saw it, compared to when it was down in the dungeons of Amazon’s search listings. Amazon does not kick you off the charts after your free promotion ends.

Being in the charts when it reverted back to a paid download meant more people saw it, and resulted in more sales.

[Please note:  Since this original post was written, Amazon has changed their ranking system.  Your book will no longer stay in the normal ‘best sellers’ based on free sales.  Only paid sales now count towards permanent rankings.  Also, sometimes the price no longer displayed next to the word “Free” for some books.  Whilst much of this article is still relevant, we’d also suggest consulting some more recent reviews of the KDP program to make sure you have a balanced view.]

3. Increased cross-promotion
When people download your book, it starts appearing in the “People who bought this book also boughtÖ..” and “Recommended for you” sections, further increasing visibility. This is similar to eBay’s “We recommend..” or Youtube’s “Recommended videos” cross-promotion: addictive, aren’t they?

4. Reviews bring more authenticity to your book
More downloads = more people reading = more reviews. I still don’t have a ton of them, but a few stars next to your book makes a difference for fence-sitters.

How you can increase your sales 600%

Below are some basic guidelines on how to get a book into the Kindle Store, as well as how to approach the KDP Select program to boost your sales.

1. Write your book (report, exposË, whatever) in Microsoft Word, or any other word processor.

2. Format it using Amazon’s quite strict but very logical Formatting Guide.
I’d suggest reading this guide first in order to set up your MS Word file for minimum re-work. After my book was finished, it took me around 6 hours to format it to their guidelines. This can easily be outsourced for under $100 on eLance, too. Minimalist formatting is necessary because users can increase or decrease the text size on their Kindle / iPad, so font size, page numbers and coloured headings become irrelevant.

You can find all of Amazon’s formatting guidelines here.

3. Create a cover, or get one designed.
eLance or 99 Designs are good for this, or you can do it yourself if youíre game. I purchased a photo from iStockPhoto.com for $80, which gives me license for up to 499,999 book sales.

Details of Amazon’s Image Guidelines are here.

4. Convert your MS Word Document to Amazon’s format.
First, “Save as” Filtered HTML, and then into Amazon’s format (PRC) using Mobi Pocket Creator. This sounds complicated, but takes less than 5 minutes.

The Guide to Conversion and Formats is here.

5. Create an Amazon KDP account, upload your book and set the price.
Your book will be available on Amazon in the US, UK, Spain, France, Italy and Germany. You can opt out of some if you want.
For prices $2.99 – $9.99, Amazon gives you 70% and takes 30%. For anything outside of that, Amazon takes 65%, and you get 35%.

6. Create an author page on Amazon Author Central
Write a bio and add a photo – you are now an author!

Amazon’s Author Central page can be viewed here.

7. Enroll in the KDP select program, making sure your book is available exclusively to Amazon (or they won’t pay your royalties!). Enrolment is by clicking one button. Make sure to set a promotion day to see the effect of free downloads on your paid sales.

If your book is borrowed by KDP members, you’ll also receive a share of the borrowed royalty pie. (For me, this is so minute as to not be relevant – yet.)

For all the info on the KDP Select Program check this out.

8. Experiment with different promotions.
I tried my first free promotional period on a weekday. The second time, I tried it on a weekend, where I figured more people would be lazing about on the couch browsing the Kindle Store. The second time around, free downloads were lower overall, but I did see another big increase in downloads after the promotional period ended. Iím still experimenting with this.

Bonus resource:
A fantastic, easy-to-read post from Notes In Spanish about how Ben Curtis published his book (this is what got me started):

The Wrap Up

Will this work for everyone? Iím not sure yet. Your mileage may vary, and everyoneís book will be different. I do believe that KDP Select is, if nothing else, a fantastic way to experiment with price points, get your book out into the world, and have some fun. Hopefully, your message will get into more peopleís hands than it would have otherwise: thatís the whole point, right?

That’s all, folks! It’s not difficult to publish an information product onto the Kindle Store. Authors and information agents – go make it happen!
Questions, or any other resources I should add to this post? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

***

Tristan’s book, Conquering Foreign Languages, is a practical guide explaining how he learned Spanish, Japanese, German and French, and how anyone can skyrocket their language skills by making the language part of their everyday lifestyle. He blogs about his passion for foreign languages at languagemusings.com.

Image Credit: Kindle by Pixabay/Unsplash

Patrick November 19, 2015 at 3:37 am

Hey dude,

I don’t understand why you bought the extended license for $80?

You actually don’t need to get the extended license unless you are selling over 500k units.

All the covers I purchase are no more than $15. I use fiverr for the design (usually $5) and paid stockphotos sites for the image (which I never pay more than $10 for.)

All my publishing friends stick to this as well. Even Stefan Pylarinos buys the covers for $5-15 (last time I looked inside his course that is what he was teaching).

I’m not sure when you published this article so this could be some new information of some strict policy changes you received. Curious to hear your response. Maybe my friends and I are misinformed? That’s why I’m asking. Lemme know. Thanks for the article. It was really helpful. Cheers.

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Alex January 22, 2016 at 3:06 am

Hello self-publishers,
there has been a lot of discussion about how to market the books after publishing.
Facebook has changed its targeting features available to the the general public. Here is a video on it. It could perhaps change the game for author and publishers and make FB ads viable for low priced items such as books.
http://k-lytics.com/facebook-ads-2016/

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Belatrela February 17, 2016 at 10:18 pm

Awesome Tips!! For my book cover designs I use this gig:

https://www.fiverr.com/alerrandre/design-professional-book-cover

This guy is the bets by far!! I was comparing other sellers with this alerrandre, you can’t even compared his work with other designers in the fiverr for eBook category.

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Carole A. Bell February 26, 2016 at 9:00 am

What an great article for a newbie in the indie-publishing experience. Thank you for the good information and the great links.
I will share this with my writers group.
Excellent!

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Sam February 26, 2016 at 11:36 pm

anyone come across any restrictions on promoting your kindle e-book on your own blog…and linking to the Amazon site to purchase? I have a kid’s book I’d like to promote on my Blog…I’ve researched but not seen anything prohibiting it

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Ashish k February 28, 2016 at 11:20 pm

It’s really helpful for newbie on kdp thanks for such a post

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saimcheeda March 9, 2016 at 6:57 am

Unfortunately for me it has been a huge waste. It’s been 7 months and I have had no sales. Self publishing was a failure.

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ATUL KAUSHAL March 22, 2016 at 10:45 am

If you want your book to be a bestseller, write it with dedication and passion if the story so deserves. No point cursing other people if you yourself are not gonna bear the necessary pains of writing. My experience speaks. Also, the sphere of eBooks is not such a popular domain. Printed books will always remain the readers’ preference.

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Oscar March 28, 2016 at 8:58 am

I too have felt this. That e-books aren’t as popular as people or websites say they are and that people still like printed books they can hold. That is why libraries still exist and people still go to them. But there is still a market for e-books and I’m still going to try my hardest to put out sincere works in hopes they will reach someone.

Claude April 29, 2016 at 9:25 am

I agree. I am a self-published author, and my print books far out-sell eBooks, even in light of the fact that the eBooks are few cheaper. Readers “generally” still prefer an actual book.

Rob Bucjman March 28, 2016 at 1:52 pm

I see several posts on here saying that their experience with self publishing was a failure, or a complete waste of time. That made me think why my story is different. Last year I earned $65,000 self publishing on Amazon, and I can only put this down to the type of books I write, SciFi. So, could it be that SciFi sells better than any other type of book? Not so I have read. Children’s books, romance, self help books all have good sales records. Exposure and following also have a lot to do with sales, as do book covers. My first attempt at self publishing on Amazon was a failure and after six months I took the book down and took a step back. I then went at looked at some of the best selling SciFi authors to see if I could figure out why their books sold and mine didn’t. Apart from the great writing I came to the conclusion that the book cover itself had a great deal to do with it. I found myself skipping over dull covers and going onto the more interesting ones. Bight colors, interesting actions and so on, so could it be that potential readers were doing the same? I’m not the greatest of writers, and before I got someone to edit my books I probably received more reviews complaining about the editing than anything else. As one review put it, and I quote:

Failed high school English: October 20, 2014
The story is pretty good if you like stories about “Superman.” The hero can do no wrong and always saves the day. I actually enjoyed reading most of it though as he does know how to tell a story.
With that endorsement ringing in my ears I went back and looked at my book cover with new eyes and sure enough, I too would have skipped over it and gone on to the next book in line. I did change the cover, going for bight colors and an interesting view, as well as getting an editor before reposting the book on Amazon. Much to my delight, sales took off and in the first month I sold several copies. The next month the sales started to climb and kept climbing, eventually peaking out at a (at least for me) a respectable amount. Since then I have posted eight more stories, most of which have a nice bright cover and have been edited by a gaggle of volunteer readers/editors. Considering the steady sales since then I would recommend looking at what category you post your story in first, then the editing, and thirdly the book cover. Getting an freelance artist to do the cover for you isn’t as expensive as you might imagine. So, that’s my take on self publishing. Any comments?

Rob Buckman

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Patience April 2, 2016 at 7:49 am

Hi Rob, thought you’d find this interesting in regards to your genre’.

Complete with graphs and a break down of how the industry favors e-books economically and lots more cool info. Highly recommend anyone considering publishing check it out:

http://authorearnings.com/report/the-report/

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Rob Buckman April 2, 2016 at 10:47 am

Patience: Great report and I agree with the conclusion. One think I’d like to point out about earning disparity is the Amazon 70% – 30% split in Amazons favor when it comes to domestic (US) sales. I’m assuming the author in other counties that self publish with Amazon in their country face the same thing, or maybe not. Maybe a reader can answer the question for me. Hopefully in the near future we authors can break that deal, especially if another epub platform comes along offering a better deal.

Rob Buckman

Author Brenda K Winters April 10, 2016 at 12:14 am

After publishing many books, I find that articles like this one really encourage me and my sales.

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Claude April 29, 2016 at 9:31 am

Yes, Brenda, I feel the same way. I admittedly don’t apply all the strategies in each blog, but I will blend them and sometimes come away with interesting ideas. I find that the best plan of action for me is to follow three main rules when reading these blogs: 1, Do the task(s) that are prescribed by all or most of the different blogs (clearly because they work). 2, Do the task(s) that seem out of the ordinary. 3, Do what seems to be the most arduous; because nobody else wants to do it, and, by doing it, you just might stand out. This blog is definitely one of the more inspiring.

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Khardine April 13, 2016 at 10:55 am

Hi,
This post is so helpful. I also found Rob Buckman’s post very inspiring.
I’m about to self publish so this is all helpful. I’d love to hear more tips. Did anyone use any of those book promotion companies? What about Twitter and Facebook ? Are those helpful.
😀

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Rob Bucjman April 13, 2016 at 4:22 pm

Khardine: That’s me, very inspirational (lol) Getting your books(s) out there for people to buy and read is the name of the game when it comes to self-publishing, and even with Amazon’s reach they mostly sell to Kindle tablets. To promote your book on Amazon you have to pay or find other way to let people know about your book. With that in mind I went looking for another way to sell, and ran across another outlet which I am trying called BookBaby. Unlike Amazon they cost, but, as they say on their website
…BookBaby is unique among self-publishing companies. Every author gets paid 100% of net sales from online retailers. We take no commission. After your net sales are collected from our retail partners, we pay you every last cent. No hidden fees. No charges. Nothing. Plus we pay every week, so there’s no waiting for your money. You set the payout amount and when your account has reached that amount we will automatically pay you on the following Monday, via the method you select. This is online self-publishing made easy…
They distribute your book to:- iBookstore, Kobo, Baker & Taylor, Copia, Gardners, Scribd, Goodreads, Oyster, Flipkart, Ciando, EBSCO, and Vearsa…
That’s a good spread and covers 99% of the other tablets, and I do like the idea of getting 100% of the earnings. Hopefully, between BookBaby and Amazon my sales will grow. The downside, if you can call it that, unlike Amazon where itonly takes days for your book to show up, it takes up to a month to get your book listed with all the outlets after you upload your book. How well my books will sell on all of these is open to question and I’ll keep you posted as to the results. I did look at Facebook but wasn’t encouraged by what I saw. To me it’s too general and full of garbage, but that just my take on it.

Rob

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Vivek April 15, 2016 at 10:44 am

Just wanted to check on mediums of paid book promotion. Kdp Select is good but what after that … just wait and hope for sales tp go up. Most sites or FB groups also only allow promotion of free books. Where do you promote while my book is not free. Arw there any sites where a book can be listed for promotion when its not free?

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Claude April 29, 2016 at 9:34 am

Hi Vivek: A great place to promo your work is on goodreads because you can participate in giveaways, and at the same time give your name and your (hopefully well-designed book cover) some exposure to truly loyal hard core readers. I’ve had good success with this.
Good luck,
Claude

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