The Non-Marketer’s Guide To Launching An Amazon Best Seller
by Zach Obront
Over the past fifteen years working in the writing and publishing world, I’ve heard the same line hundreds of times:
“If my book just changes one person’s life, I’ll be happy.”
This is a beautiful sentiment. And it’s almost always a lie.
After slaving away at their books for hundreds or thousands of hours, every author wants their book to reach an audience.
To make matters worse, book marketing can be incredibly complicated. For most authors (especially the busy professionals we work with at Book In A Box), the time and effort necessary to understand the nuances of book marketing just isn’t worth it.
As a result, we created a detailed playbook for turning a great book into an Amazon Bestseller, without ANY of the assets a professional marketer has.
After refining this process with hundreds of authors (you can read about some of their results here) we’ve decided to publish it as a free guide for anyone who wants to turn their book into an Amazon Bestseller.
Before we dive in, however, you need to be clear on why you want to be #1 in your Amazon category.
We have an entire article on why bestseller lists are bullshit when it comes to measuring book sales. You can sell a ton of books and not hit a bestseller list, and you can sell a modest number of books and dominate your category. It all depends on how your particular bestseller list measures sales.
However, the unfortunate reality is that being a bestseller matters. It leads to people taking your book more seriously and seeing you as more of an authority.
If you want to use your book to build authority and influence, hitting the top of your Amazon category is a great place to start.
By the end of this guide, you’ll have everything you need—step-by-step instructions, templates, promotional services, etc.—to run an Amazon Bestseller Campaign and hit #1 in your category.
A Quick Overview of Your Amazon Bestseller Campaign
Your Amazon Bestseller campaign is going to be broken down into two time periods:
- The Pre-Launch Period. This is where you’ll put together your book assets, gather your assets, and schedule your promotions..
- The Book Launch. This is the week when you’ll execute all of your big promotional pushes and try to sell as many books as possible.
The goal here is to condense the bulk of your book sales into a small window. Why?
Because Amazon measures sales on a rolling basis. To be a bestseller, this means your goal isn’t to outsell other books overall, but to outsell other books within a specific window.
For example, if you sold 10 books a day over the course of a month, you’d have sold 300 books overall, but probably wouldn’t hit the bestseller list.
If you only sold 150 books total, but you sold them all in one day, you’d almost definitely hit the bestseller lists for your category.
If you follow this guide to the letter, you’re going to spend a few weeks hustling to get everything set up—The Pre-Launch Period—and then something amazing will happen:
You’ll start your launch week, and you’ll have a published book with dozens of reviews. Your book will be emailed out to 1,000 of your friends. Your book will be included on email lists that have thousands of subscribers. Popular influencers will share their book with their audience.
All of a sudden, you’ll have sold 100+ copies in a couple days, be listed as an Amazon Bestseller, and you’ll feel as if it happened effortlessly.
But first, you have to learn the steps, starting with The Pre-Launch Period.
Pre-Launch: How To Prep For Your Bestseller Campaign
You need to put several things in place before you make your big push for the bestseller list.
This time period can be incredibly frustrating, because your book is finished and you’re justifiably eager to start selling it. However, if you try to sell copies of your book before making sure your book is positioned right and your promotions are scheduled, you’ll wind up shooting yourself in the foot.
Like we talked about earlier, Amazon measures sales on a rolling basis. If 30 people who would have bought your book during your Launch Week wind up buying it early, all at different times, you lose those 30 people from your big push—making it harder to crack the list.
There are four things you need to do in this period.
1. Make Sure Your Cover Is Amazing
I cannot overstate the importance of a good cover. The old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is either wrong, or the single most often ignored piece of good advice in history. We have a whole article on how people actually judge your book (hint: it’s not the writing.)
A cover does more than tell you what a book is about, it signals its quality. A beautiful, classy, and engaging cover piques your audience’s curiosity. A cover that is poorly designed at best has no effect on a reader’s opinion of your book, but more likely, leaves them confused and uninterested.
Let me give you an example. What would you say this book is about, judging by its cover alone?
It’s about…construction? It sort of looks like a robot giving another robot a ring? Robot marriage proposals?
If you don’t recognize that title or author, grab the nearest English major. That’s one of the most celebrated novellas ever written. Since its first publication in the 1890s, it’s been republished again and again, adapted into movies, even made into an opera.
Convincing people to read this book should be easy, but this cover actually makes people dismiss it.
This book by Bridgette Mayer, however, was an Amazon Bestseller, and it’s easy to see why when you look at its cover:
It’s clean, tells you what it’s about, and its design doesn’t say “low quality.” It invites you to read it.
If you want to go more in-depth on this, we actually have an entire guide to getting a great cover.
Once you have your cover in place, you can start building the relationships you’ll need to promote your book.
2. Reach Out To Key Influencers In Your Book’s Niche
Influencers within your niche are incredibly important for two reasons:
- They can give you feedback about your book and your positioning.
- They have massive audiences they can promote your book to.
However, you will get neither of these things from them if you don’t have an actual relationship.
Once you decide which influencers you want to connect with, you should simply reach out and give them a free copy of your book. Let them know it hasn’t come out yet, and that you’d just love to share it with them. DON’T ASK THEM FOR ANYTHING.
Seriously, you cannot ask for anything at this point. You’re just trying to build a connection between them and your book.
Hey *Influencer Name*!
This is sort of random, but I just wanted to thank you.
I’ve been working on a book for a long time, and I’ve just finished it, and I’m going back to thank all the people who were big influences on me while I wrote it. So thanks!
It’s called *Title* and it’s about *Topic*. I can send you a copy—no strings attached—just let me know if you prefer Kindle or PDF.
I think you might like it, because [INSERT AUTHENTIC REASON THEY WILL CARE ABOUT].
If you’re too busy, I totally understand. Just wanted to reach out and thank you for everything you’ve shared.
See? You’re not asking for anything, you’re just sharing your book for a reason you think they will care about. They’re going to have a much more positive reaction to this and will be more willing to read your book.
Also, by asking what format they’d prefer the book in, you’ve made it more awkward for them to say no.
Your entire goal in this interaction is to open the door to more interactions.
3. Engage The Communities That Will Care About Your Book
Once you have connections with key influencers, it’s time to start engaging a broader audience. The first question you need to ask is: where can I engage my audience online?
For most authors, we’ve found the following online social groups to be the most rewarding:
- LinkedIn Groups
- Facebook Groups
Make a list of key online groups you want to promote your book to, and start engaging them regularly.
For example, if you’re writing a book on fitness, it’s a good idea to start posting in r/Fitness, a Reddit community with millions of people, and building up some real reputation and connections there.
Once you’ve built up those relationships, you can post a thread announcing that you’re going to be releasing a book, and ask for feedback.
The important thing is that you’re building trust with your audience by interacting with them before you try and sell to them. So many people fail to do this, and then are shocked when people don’t care about their book.
Once you have the attention of your audience, it’s time to publish your book.
4. Publish Your Book To Amazon
Publish my book? But I haven’t finished the bestseller campaign!
A lot of authors think that to be a bestseller, you have to sell copies starting the second your book is released. That’s just not the case.
Again, the only thing that matters in becoming an Amazon bestseller is how many copies you sell within a single window of time. If your book has been out 15 days without selling any copies, but then sells 1,000 on its 16th day, you’re still a bestseller.
The only caveat to this is that you want to finish your bestseller campaign within one month of publishing your book, so that your book still qualifies for Amazon’s “Hot New Releases” list.
We’re not going to get into the nitty gritty details of publishing an eBook to Amazon, because Amazon already has a great guide that will walk you through the process here of publishing a book and creating an Amazon Author Profile here.
Follow that guide to publish your book, and don’t worry about your book’s price or category yet, you’ll handle all of that when we get to your actual book launch.
5. Gather Reviews For Your Book
You need to already have many reviews for your book before its big launch so that when you push your book to those huge audiences, it looks legitimate.
Seeing that a product has been reviewed many times is a massive trust signal. It says that it’s quality, that other people have enjoyed it, and that there’s nothing fishy going on with its marketing.
There are a few ways to get reviews early, and the fastest is to simply ask people you know.
Here’s a template you can use for this:
Hey *Friend’s Name*,
So this is going to come out of nowhere but…I wrote a book! And it’s published!
I need to ask you a favor. I just haven’t really done any promotion for the book yet, which means no one has reviewed it—and it’s hard to get strangers to buy a copy if they don’t see any reviews.
If I you could write a review, I would be incredibly thankful (and of course you get a free review copy so you can read it).
You can download a PDF version of the book *here*, and go over to the Amazon page to leave a review *here*.
Thank you so much; this is really great of you to do.
If you want to make it as easy as possible for them, you can actually pre-write several reviews, and then send them to friends you are extremely close with. When I say extremely close, I mean the kinds of friends who would do something (like copy and paste an Amazon review) just to help you out, no questions asked.
Unless you have really terrible friends, you should be able to get 15 to 25 reviews this way, which will give your book the social proof it needs for people to take it seriously.
6. Place Your Book on Big Giveaway Lists
Now we’re talking. At this point, you’ve been laying the groundwork for your marketing, gathering the relationships and social proof you need to execute effective promotions.
Now you get to schedule those big promotions.
There are two reasons this step comes near the end:
- You need to have a date in mind. Scheduling promotions means picking a launch date, and it’s hard to pick a date before everything that came before this step is in place.
- These promotional services are selective. Some of these services can email your book to 100,000+ people, but they won’t just email any book. They need proof that your book legit. Fortunately, you have a beautifully designed book with lots of reviews.
The most approachable and effective promotion tactic we’ve seen authors use is paid email placement.
These are services that have giant emails lists of subscribers. Their subscribers sign up to get access to discounted books. The services in turn offer the giant lists to authors, in exchange for payment, and for the author discounting their book.
The key here is to set your book’s price fairly high, somewhere around $9.99 (Remember, you don’t care about sales yet) and then apply to these services, offering to discount your book to $0.99 for them.
You’re going to be selling your book for $0.99 during your Launch Period anyway (more on that later), so the discount you’re offering isn’t costing you anything.
You want all of your promotional emails to launch on the same day—the first day of your Launch Period—in order to maximize their effect.
The three services we recommend are as follows:
- Riffle. Selective, but very dependable. Their most expensive package is $100 while their cheapest is $25. See their site for full list of criteria.
- Buck Books. They will only promote books that are discounted to $0.99. They are typically selective, but if you purchased your cover through 100Covers, you’re guaranteed a spot on their email blast.
- BookBub. The most selective of the three, but they have an incredible list of subscribers. For example, here’s a chart breaking down their fees and average sales based on genre, subscriber list, and discount:
Those are the three we prefer to use, but there are tons of eBook promotional services you can use, which have been thoroughly documented by sites like Kindlepreneur.
7. Create A Facebook Event For Your Book Launch
Now that you have an actual launch day, you can start telling people when your book is coming.
The easiest way to tell everyone about your launch—and remind them on the day of the launch—is to create a Facebook Event and invite everyone you’re connected with.
You can find your event page under the “More” tab on your Facebook page:
Once you click “Create Event,” you’ll be able to set your event up. Remember to set your event to public so that people you don’t know can find it. The more the merrier.
Next, set your Event Photo to be a picture of your book, and add a fun title like below:
In your Event Description, make sure everyone knows why they’re invited and what’s going to happen. Also, choose some keywords that relate to your book, so that random Facebookers can happen across it more easily.
Then, create your event and invite everyone you know to it. When your book is discounted to $0.99, you’ll post on the Event Page letting everyone know and sharing a link to the Amazon page. That way, everyone invited to Event will get a notification and be reminded to go buy your book.
Now that you have everything set up for your launch, you can put your foot on the gas and start The Launch Period.
The Launch Period: Getting To Bestseller Status
This is the big sprint. You’ve spent a long time building relationships, scheduling promotions, and building the trust of your audience.
If you’ve done it right, you’ve built a powerful book-selling engine, and all you have to do now is put your foot on the gas.
But first, you need to position your book for success.
8. Update Your Prices And Categories Before The Launch
At least 12 hours before your book launch, you need to update your price to $0.99 so everything is all right for your promotions.
If you agreed to price your book at $0.99 for a promotional service, but didn’t, they won’t promote your book and will probably never work with you again.
Updating your price is easy:
- Login to kdp.amazon.com
- From the dashboard, select “Edit eBook Pricing” from the options next to your book
- Change the price to $0.99
DO NOT HIT SAVE YET.
You also need to SIMULTANEOUSLY update your book’s categories so that you can rank in the right places. This has to be done at the same time as the price change, because any changes to price or category will lock the system for a period of time, making it impossible for you to update anything else.
Under the section titled “3. Target Your Book to Customers” you can decide your categories. In order to pick categories, go to the Kindle Bestseller Listings and find two potential categories for the book.
The rules to decide are as follows:
- Choose at least one category where the top book has a bestseller rank worse than 5,000, ideally as low as 10,000.
- Choose categories you would be happy to be in, and make sense for the book. If you said you were a bestseller in x, would it make sense?
One thing to note is that you will likely come across specific subcategories that can’t be selected manually.
For example, even though “Business & Money/Education & Reference/MBA” is a category, you can’t explicitly choose it.
Those niche categories are selected according to the specific keywords a book targets. You can select these categories by selecting the right combination of general category and keyword. For example, you can target “Business & Money/Education & Reference/MBA,” you can select the “Business & Money” section, and target the keyword “MBA.” This tells Amazon which subcategory to put it in.
For a full breakdown of what keyword and category combinations are necessary to unlock specific subcategories, use this list hosted by Amazon.
Once all of this is completed, you can scroll to the bottom of the page and tick “Save and Publish.”
Now, it’s time to cash in on everything you set up in The Pre-Launch Period.
9. Reach Back Out To Those Key Influencers
A lot of what happens on the first day of your launch actually only takes minimal work for you. For example, the following will happen without your help:
- Your paid placements are being emailed out.
- Your Facebook Event will alert your invitees.
However, there are still things you need to do manually.
First among those is cashing in on those relationships you built with influencers.
Reach back out to all of those major influencers you interacted with before with an email like this:
Hey *Influencer Name*!
I just wanted to reach out and let you know that the book is officially live! *Link “live!” to Amazon Page*
We’re at *X* reviews and ranking *X*!
I just wanted to thank you for the feedback and for responding to me at all when I first reached out. It means a lot that you were willing to give me your time when I was coming out of the blue and asking you for advice.
And now we’re here!
I’ve discounted the book to $0.99 for the first week to make downloading it a no-brainer. If you think your audience would be interested, it would be amazing if you could send a short tweet to share it with them. No pressure, of course, but after all the hard work I’ve put into the book, I’m confident it will add a lot of value for them.
If there’s ever anything I can do to make it up to you, just let me know.
Just like before, you aren’t asking for anything. These are people who get pitched 1,000,000 times a day. They hate that shit.
Instead, you’re thanking them, and without giving them a choice, you’re pushing responsibility for the book on to them. It’s somehow their book too now.
This makes it way more likely that they’ll help you out by sharing the book, and even if they don’t, by asking what you can do for them you’ve opened the door to working together down the line.
10. Cold Email Your Professional Network
This is probably our favorite Bestseller hack.
Do you have a LinkedIn account? Of course you do. Every professional does.
Did you know that you can email—not LinkedIn Message—every person you’re connected to on LinkedIn at the email address they used to sign up for LinkedIn?
If you click “Request archive,” an email will be sent to your inbox which directs you to a download page. On that page, you can download a Zip file that contains a spreadsheet titled “Connections.csv”
That file contains the email addresses of every LinkedIn contact you have.
Once you have the emails of all of your connections, the next step is to use a piece of software we recommend for all cold email situations, MailShake.
These connections aren’t people who have signed up for your email lists. You can’t add them to something MailChimp and email them every month, you’ll get flagged for spam.
However, MailShake isn’t designed for you to build a giant list and email them every week. It’s designed to run one campaign at a time on a list of cold emails, without saving them for later.
Plus, it only costs $9 per user per month, and comes with a 30-day money back guarantee.
One quick note about cold emailing. Different email providers have different limits on your daily email limits. For instance, free Gmail accounts have a limit of 500 sent emails per day, whereas paid G Suite email accounts have limits of 2,000 per day. If your list is bigger than your daily limit, divide your list into multiple days.
Back to MailShake.
Once you’re registered with MailShake, you can initiate a new campaign by clicking “New Campaign,” which will take you to this screen:
Once you name your campaign and decide which email account you want your emails to come from, you can upload the CSV of emails you exported from LinkedIn:
Once you’ve uploaded that list, MailShake will know exactly who to email. On top of that, MailShake will access to the other columns in the sheet, which includes each connection’s name and title.
You can use this information to customize your outreach automatically.
All you have to do now is enter your email template, and let MailShake reach out to everyone on your behalf.
Here’s a form email we use for this.
Sorry to drop out of the blue like this, I’ve got exciting news and a quick favor to ask of you.
Exciting News: I wrote a book! It’s called *Title* and it’s about *Description*
I’m discounting the book to $0.99 for a couple days so that my friends can read it without paying full price.
If you’re interested, *here’s a link to the Amazon page.*
Obviously, please don’t feel obligated, I promise I will not hold it against you if you don’t have the time to. More than anything, I just want to share my excitement with my friends!
With that, you should generate even more buys and shares.
11. Promote Your Book To Your Communities
If you’ve spent time engaging audiences like you’re supposed to, you’ll be able to post to all the communities you’ve engaged and share your new book.
For example, one of our authors, Furious Pete, used his relationships with the fitness community on r/Fitness to do an Ask-Me-Anything, which over 100,000 people saw:
Now, he has some celebrity status, so you might not be able to garner the exact same results, but you can still cash in on all that goodwill you’ve built up.
This also extends to any Facebook and LinkedIn Groups you joined along the way. Jump in and post about your new book, inviting people to buy at its $0.99 price, and asking for feedback.
12. Wait, and Say Thank You
At this point, all you really have to do is wait for your promotions to fizzle out over the several days.
The last day of your launch week is more or less spent sending thank you notes.
Seriously, send thank you notes. You’ve spent the last week blasting the hell out of the internet because it was a momentous event in your life, but to everyone else, it was just another week.
Anyone who took time out of their day to purchase your book is either:
- A great friend.
- A real member of your audience.
You need to engage those people, and let them know you’re grateful.
We’re actually not going to include a template for this one. Gotta come from the heart sometimes 😉
Congratulations, You’re (Probably) an Amazon Bestseller Now
If you followed this guide to the letter (and there were A LOT of letters in it), you most likely have an Amazon Bestseller on your hands.
For the rest of your life, every time you’re featured in the press, every time you’re introduced as a keynote speaker, every time you launch a personal website—you will have “Bestseller” next to your name.
There are a TON of doors that open for you when you have a popular book, and for a complete guide to benefiting from your newfound success, check out this guide.
If you read this guide and found yourself overwhelmed, don’t worry about it. We find it overwhelming too, that’s why we built an entire company around doing it for you.
Feel free to get in touch with us through the form on the homepage to discuss whether we’re the right fit to help you write, publish, and market your book.
If you follow the advice in this guide and launch an Amazon Bestseller, we’d LOVE to hear your story. Let us know by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we might just show your book some love on our social media.