Have you ever dreamed of writing and publishing a #1 bestseller? Or, have you been seeing more and more authors who have published #1 Amazon bestsellers? I have, too. That’s why I set out to see if I could make one of my books become a #1 Amazon bestseller. Long story short: I did it. In this episode, I’ll tell you exactly how I did it.
I want to demystify the process of getting your book to the top slot in its category, both so that you can follow what I did, and so that you can also consider what it means to be a #1 Amazon bestseller. I’ll walk you through what I think are the three essential steps to make your book an Amazon bestseller, and I’ll tell you the story of how I first failed, then succeeded. I think you’ll find this behind-the-scenes look really valuable if you’re thinking about implementing this strategy.
TRANSCRIPT: HOW I BECAME A #1 AMAZON BESTSELLER
This is an automatically-generated transcript of the episode. Please excuse any typos.
Free 5-Step Guide to Creating Your First Nonfiction Book
Enter your email below to get the free nonfiction book creation guide sent straight to your inbox.
Today is a solo episode and I’m excited to be talking to you about Amazon best sellers. It’s something that I’m sure that you’ve seen people tout as a sort of feather in their cap or a social proof that, hey, I’m a number one Amazon bestseller, or you should read my book. It’s a number one Amazon bestseller. You may have also seen other people who talk about self publishing and authorship and they may describe how to get to a number one Amazon bestseller position and may encourage you to purchase a course that will teach you how to do that. I will be honest and say that I have not purchased any of those courses, but because I know that I have followers and listeners who are actually really interested in that number one Amazon bestseller title. I decided to do a little bit of my own testing.
If you don’t already know. Now that I am constantly testing different marketing strategies, different just overall launch and publishing strategies with my own books so that I can pass along what I learned to you. So for example, my newest book, Matt to pavement, I published it in late December and while it was a topic that I was passionate about and something that I wanted to share it with my fitness and yoga and specifically yoga for runners audience at the same time, my main reason why I wanted to write it, it was so that I could test out some strategies with it so that I could pass along to you. So for example, I wrote most of it during November. During Nanowrimo I did run into some time issues where I needed to spend my time on client work. So I finished it in 45 days or published it in just about 45 days after I started working on it as opposed to 30 days.
But I feel like that’s pretty darn good. Again, I think it’s important to talk about the goals of your book because that should help you choose what strategies you are going to pick. So again, I wanted to test some marketing strategies including seeing if I could get an Amazon number one book because that was a strategy that I wanted to test to be able to pass along to all of you. If you have different goals for your book, then becoming an a number one. Amazon bestseller may not be a strategy you want to pursue because there are certain things that you’ll need to do with your book that I will be talking about in a moment, but really I just want to again, make sure that you take the time to sit down and figure out what is your number one goal for your book before you choose any strategy.
So do you want that social proof of becoming a, an Amazon number one bestseller? Or do you want to reach a new audience and try to get them on your mailing list than you would try a different strategy? Or if you number one want to make money from your book, you’ll want to follow a completely different strategy. If you want to use your book to lead into a course that’s yet a different strategy. So I want you to get solid on your vision for your book and where it fits into your business before you go through following this strategy, but if it is in fact the right strategy for you that you want to become a number one amazon bestseller. While let’s take a minute to talk about just how hard it is to get that label and how do you become a number one amazon bestseller.
[Tweet “#Writers, do you dream of writing a #1 Amazon bestseller someday? Let @bloggertoauthor tell you how she did it! She’s sharing everything so you can learn how to do it, too. #amwriting”]
And the process really depends on who you ask. And like I mentioned in the Intro, there are people who offered pe programs to teach you how to do this. So there’s not necessarily a plethora of information out there about the exact methods that you can use to get to a number one bestseller. Because a lot of people want to charge a lot of money to get there. But the basic idea is that your first step is to find a category with low competition. So if you go into Amazon’s kindle section, there are all sorts of different categories and when people call themselves a number one Amazon bestseller, what they mean is that they became the number one bestseller in their category. So if you’re main goal is to become a bestseller, then finding a category that has very low competition is going to be key.
And what do I mean by low competition that there aren’t a lot of really big books that are moving a high volume of sales at the top of that category. So for example, if you were to go to a super popular category and somebody’s getting tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of copies of their book bought per week, your chances of getting to the top of that category, especially if you don’t have a huge, huge following like those people do who are at the top of the category already. It’s very slim. But if you go to a category that has very low competition, like underwater basket weaving or something that is not in the mainstream so much, then it’s easier to get your book to the top of the category. And you can actually see people do this in ways that I personally feel are somewhat disingenuous. I’ve put my book rightly categories, uh, like I’ll tell you about it in a little bit, but, uh, for example, my books that are geared at runners, I’ll put them into the track and field category because anybody who’s running track could benefit from what I’m teaching.
However, I’ve seen some really weird books in there that have nothing to do with running or track and field or really any sport. Like I’ve seen books in there that are about say self improvement or business or something where it’s really difficult to get to the top of the category in some of the bigger categories. So they’ll throw their book into a less competitive category like track and field. So it’s possible to get your book to the top of the bestseller list that way. But again, number one, it just personally leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. And I think that you would probably agree. It kind of feels like cheating. And if you don’t care then by all means, certainly find one of those categories. And just randomly stick your book in there and get to the top of the list if that’s your thing, go ahead and do that.
But the one thing I will say is that if there are people who are just browsing through categories, they’re not going to want to read your book because it’s not what’s interesting to them. But if somebody is, for example, getting ready for track and field season and they come upon my book and they’re like, oh, this is going to make me a better runner. You know, somebody who runs a 1600, that’s a, for those of you who are in the US, it’s about a mile. And I think what I teach could really help them with their training. And so I feel like it’s a perfectly legitimate place to put my book. So again, it feels like a tangent, but I hope that this gives you a better idea of what you have to think through when it comes to selecting the category. And one thing that I used to help me select my category was a piece of software that I actually heard about first from Kirsten oliphant.
And you can listen to her interview or she actually talks about a lot of really great tools for authors in episode 40 of the podcast so you can just go to blogger to author.com/ 44 zero and it will take you to that episode up at Kiersten. One of the tools you talked about with Katie spy and it’s about $50 to get access to. So I went ahead and bought that. And what’s great about that is it actually winds up being a plugin in the chrome browser. You can go into the section on Amazon for kindle and it will pull up what it estimates as the average number of weekly sales and so your. It’s just an estimate. It may or may not be right or wrong. And then also keep in mind that the kindle rankings are updated hourly. So you’ll want to go back and look at possible categories multiple times.
But one of the nice things that Katie Spike does do for you is it gives you an idea of the competition. And then when you run the numbers, you can figure out about how many downloads you would need to get or purchases of your book to get to the top of the list. So it’s super, super valuable for that. So that’s step one, pick a category, do some research if you need to, but figure out what category you want to be in. Step two is that if you’re competing to be a number one paid book, you want to price your book really low ideally. So the reason why you want to offer your book for very minimal price is that that then becomes a very low barrier to having somebody purchase your book. If you price your book for $9, 99, not as many people are going to buy it as they would if it was ninety nine cents or a dollar 99.
I’ve seen this with my own books, how ever the books that I have that I have priced more or the higher dollar amount, I believe in their value so much that I do not want to bring it down to that low value. And so that’s something that I really think you should keep in mind that if you want to follow this strategy, absolutely and you can temporarily knock your book done in ninety nine cents or a dollar 99, but for this strategy to be successful in most cases, in every case I’ve seen really that book needs to be very low price. And again, with that lower price, more people will chip in and say, Hey, what the heck? I’ll support you for a dollar. For example, if your book was just ninety nine cents, hopefully your friends and family will chip in and be willing to invest a dollar, although don’t necessarily count on it.
I’ll talk about that in a second. So that’s step to price your book low. And step three is promoting it like heck. So talk about it all the time until you’re blue in the face. Talk about it, talk about it, talk about it, email your list, post on social multiple times and try to get as many people as you can using every connection and relationship you have to download or buy your book in a very short period of time. So again, because the numbers for kindle are updated hourly. If you could get everybody who’s going to buy your book right away, if you could get them to buy it within an hour or two, that would really, really increase your chances to getting to number one. If it’s spread out over 24 hours, that reduces your chances. And again, it’s not that it’s impossible, but if you really want to follow this strategy, do you can to get people to buy the book in a very short period of time because then more sales you have within say an hour, the easier it’s going to be to get to that number one spot and really save some time as well because you’re going to be hitting refresh on your browser a couple times.
An our to see how it does. Because once it gets to number one, I strongly recommend that you take a screenshot of that just so that you’ve got that just in case for some reason somebody wants to see that you actually were number one. You can show him the screenshot. That’s the basic system. Now I want to go into how I made it work for my book. It started with my prelaunch. I emailed my list to announce that my book was coming and I also ask people to sign up for my separate list that I had, or actually it was technically a separate segment within my list for people who wanted to get information about the book, so it was just really a campaign and not only email campaign, but social media and a concerted effort over at least a month to build buzz and let people know the book was coming.
I was on social at the time talking about how excited I was to have finished a chapter, for example, that sort of thing. I also emailed a free copy of the book to my Info List and with that really the main reason why I did that was so that they would have their book in hand so that they would be willing to write a review and so that they had the book to look through to be able to write an authentic review. I know a lot of people and myself included, I don’t want to write a review for something that I haven’t read, but if they have a digital copy of it and they read it, that’s going to get more reviews and the reviews are going to help propel more sales for your book on kindle. So I started that again probably four to six weeks before my book launched, a week or two before the launch.
I tried to mention it every single day on every social media channel that I could. I talked about it every day on my personal facebook page, just talking about how excited I was about the book coming out, how I was putting the finishing touches on it, that sort of thing. I also emailed my list regularly and mentioned it to them. I just talked about it as much as I possibly could so that people knew it was coming out. That was a mistake I made with my second book and it was not a mistake I wanted to repeat with this book, especially because I needed people to go in and buy it in a short amount of time and if you side note like to hear more about the mistakes I made with my book launch before that you can listen to a blogger to author episode 18, find [email protected] slash 18.
One thing that I’ll let you know and while we’re talking about mistakes or mishaps about the launch of the new book, Matt to pavement, is that I got really sick with the flu two days before. Launch them. If you’re listening to this, as the episode comes out, you know that there’s a really bad flu strain going around this year. I came down with it. Luckily I had my flu shot, so I was only sick for about 24 hours, but that knocked me back and knocked back my promotion efforts as well too, so automate as much as you can is the moral of that story, so I also created an event on my facebook business page for the launch party to promote it, to get people excited about it and then with that event I also started advertising that I was going to do a giveaway and so I did a giveaway using the raffle copter app slash service.
People got entries for sharing on social media to make sure that the giveaway was enticing. I asked all my runner friends what they’d like to see and a giveaway and took that to heart and I also mentioned it several times on social media and so to give you an idea of what the giveaways look like. So again, this was a book about Yoga for runners. I gave away three physical copies of the book, so printed copies. I just ordered them from Amazon and had them sent. I gave away a car or a bundle with my previous book. My first book, Yoga for runners, I had not only a printed copy as a giveaway as part of that bundle, but then also a digital copy and then a couple of yoga videos as well that went with that and then I gave away some other runner friendly things as well, like running socks and that sort of thing.
So just to give you an idea of the types of things that I had involved in that giveaway and to take a minute to talk a little bit more about the strategy that I decided to follow. So I again was using that piece of software, Katie spy and when I was looking at the goal categories that I wanted to work with and especially I really focused in on that track and field category because it was still a good fit for my book, but it had low competition. When I checked in the paid books. The top book had a sales rank of 55, so they only needed 55 purchases. Whereas the top free book had over 2000 downloads per week. So I looked at those numbers and decided that it would be easier for me to sell 55 to 60 books to my audience to get 55 or 60 people to chip in ninety nine cents to purchase the book than it was to get over 2000 people to download the book.
And just to give you an idea, at the time it launched, my mailing list was about 2,700 people and so I would have had to get almost all of them, including the people who never opened my emails to buy it. I didn’t think that that was as likely a. So I went with the pain. So my lunch date was on Tuesday of the week. I started my promotions mid morning mostly because I had to wait for the updated version of my kindle manuscript to be approved since I totally missed the email reminding me to upload my final updates 72 hours before launch, if you remember I had the flu so I was not in a good mental state. It happens and actually that was okay because I was still doing a few tweaks over the weekend. Trying to really perfect the book as much as I could while still getting it done again, done is better than perfect, so just set me back a couple of hours and nothing too big.
So the main outreach I did that day was announcing it to my personal facebook page. I was really banking on the fact that my friends would either number one, be willing to spend ninety nine cents to help me out or number two. So I have a lot of friends who are runners and I also have a lot of facebook friends who are running bloggers and so I was also hoping that maybe if they didn’t want to buy the book that they would at least be willing to share it because again, I really do think it’s a book that will help a lot of people. I think it’s an important message and I think it’s a phenomenal deal for ninety nine cents. So I didn’t feel bad about pushing it because I believed in the value of the book and I believed that it was genuinely going to help people and if you can genuinely help people it for ninety nine cents.
That’s amazing. Right. So what were the results of that effort? I did have several friends share about the book, which is Super Great. I also tried to ask for reviews often and that’s because all the kindle experts that I follow and read say that reviews really help your book improve its rankings. And so I really hit hard on trying to get good reviews on there and I did get some amazing friends and fans leaving those book reviews and if you’re one of them, thank you so much. So what happened by the end of day one of my launch, while I had a grand total of nine books sales, wha wha. I was actually super disappointed by that. But you know, it is what it is. I guess really the reason why I’m sharing that with you is that I want you to not necessarily count on your friends and family, being willing to even spend ninety nine cents to get a book.
Granted, I launched my book on December 19th. It was right in the middle of holiday season actually, probably when most people had already spent a lot of money on presence already so that could have played into it, but really I want you to learn from my example here and to adjust as you need to, so be aware of what events are going on around the same time as you, you know, are people spending a lot of money on something and just take that to heart so that you can plan accordingly for your book launch. I also had five published refuse for my book the first day, which was amazing. I was so happy about that and I got up to number two in the category that I was targeting that track and field category and technically that does make me a best selling author and I was honestly a little disappointed by the fact that I didn’t make it to number one.
Although I did think that that would be a unique differentiating point that I was a number two Amazon bestseller. Everybody talks about being a number one bestseller. Well, Hey, I can be a little different, but I didn’t give up. I decided for another day to give it a try. Um, so the next day on what day I decided to donate all of my profits, all of my royalty to charity. And I have a friend who is a runner and the sipoc about running and she is raising money for a ratio. Does every year for a really great cause that I totally believe in. And so I decided, hey, I’m going to donate the profits. Granted I’m making like thirty cents on each book. I’m going to donate the profits of all the books that I sell that day to her. And her fundraising efforts, and again, my primary goal for this book was not to make money, so it wasn’t a big deal for me to give away the money.
Again, it was a charity that I really believe in as well. And I also wanted to see if the idea of donating profits would be a strategy that could help me get more book sales. But again, that wasn’t my main reason for deciding to do this really. It also was the fact that I really believe in this charity and I really believe in my friend and everything she’s doing. What else did I do that day? I got on live videos on both my business facebook page and on my instagram account letting them know all about the deal that I was having, that the profits were going to charity, that sort of thing. And then I also ran a small facebook ad to my facebook audience. So people who liked my facebook page and their friends, um, my total spend for that was around five bucks.
So I didn’t put too much money into it, although I spent far more than I got in sales. But again, just wanted to test that out as a strategy. Total sales once again, nine books the second day, just like the first day, and then I had one review that was published. Uh, I’m not sure if it was submitted on Tuesday and then possibly got published Wednesday. There is a little bit of a lag when it comes to submitting reviews and then Amazon actually publishing them and when you boil everything down date too. I still did not get any higher than number two on the sales list. So just to step back and sort of digest this and talk about it as a whole. Things that I think effected the launch and affected me getting to number one in the category that I was going after.
And again going back to timing, it was right before the holidays. I think that that did have a big impact. I would have liked to have launched a week earlier, but to be honest, I wouldn’t have been done with the book and I wouldn’t have done a good job of everything else. I also had to do to promote the book. And then I also have business applications on top of that with the clients I work with, so it just wouldn’t have worked to do that. But in an ideal world I would have moved it up a little bit. Another thing in terms of timing, if you remember the corrected and updated version wasn’t available on kindle until late morning. And so I didn’t start talking about it until late morning and I think it would’ve really helped if I would have been on the ball and made sure that all of the edits were turned in on time because then it could have started talking about it first thing Tuesday morning, gotten up early, talked about it like five or 6:00 AM, so that people who are checking facebook or instagram or whatever on their way to work.
But they would have seen those posts and I think I would have had a better chance of getting things off to a good start if I had started when people are checking their phones and devices early in the morning as opposed to late morning when hardly anybody is on right. So again, the idea there is to try to get people to purchase the book in a short window of time as opposed to a wider window where again, it’s not going to have as big of an impact on your rankings as it would if everybody bought it at once. So ultimately I did not meet my goal to get to number one with a paid book, how ever I decided to go back at it with a free book because I was keeping an eye with Katie spy on the category and I noticed that as I went back there actually were a.
There was less and less competition in that goal category that I was going after and in fact I looked at it, I think it was Christmas or the day after Christmas and there were no books in the free version at that point. Remember when I checked it first? The number one book was actually 2000 copies a week is what it was moving. And so be aware that things can change and so the time you launch it, the day you launch it will have a big effect on your competition. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know who else is going to launch a book on that day, so just know something could come up and always have a plan b and the free book strategy was my plan B, so I made my book for free for one day on January second, 2018. It was great timing because it’s a fitness book and everybody loves to on January first jump into all sorts of fitness, New Year’s resolutions, and so I thought that that was actually a really smart time for me to make my book free.
I posted that it was free to my facebook page right at the beginning of the day and I posted it to my personal profile as well. I essentially just tried to get it on every single channel that I could, that this book was free and my book actually hit number one within a couple of hours by 7:30 AM central, so super, super fast. It skyrocketed up to number one and that’s actually, I think in large part because of the fact that there wasn’t a lot of competition at that point. On that day, in the free category, but it worked out well for me. Timing was perfect and whew, that was great. So I also sent out an email to my list around 9:00 AM, which again had just over 2,700 people and 50 people had ordered it by lunchtime, so went and downloaded it. By the end of that 24 hour period I had just under 200 people go ahead and download the book.
It was a 190 something, so that actually was a lot of downloads I felt like and I was pretty happy with what happened there and I’m happy to report that due to that hard work, I hit number one in track and field. I also hit number one in running and jogging, which is a more competitive category and I got all the way up to number three in individual sports, which again, there’s a lot of competition there, but I was super happy with that that I actually hit number one in two categories and number three and another one that had a lot of competition. And again, this was January second, so everybody was buying books about individual sports. So I was, yeah, again, really happy with how that ultimately worked out. It made me feel like my mission to test out this strategy was not a total failure, which is always a really nice thing.
So let me share a couple of final thoughts for you. Really. One thing I want to talk about is what does it mean to become a bestselling author and the fact that I became a number two best selling author with my book with just nine book sales in a day. Yes, it’s a nice title or label to be able to put on yourself, but is it really getting you to your goals? And again, this is coming back to what I talked about at the very beginning of the episode. What are your goals for your book? If you do just want that title of number one Amazon Bestseller, then by all means go for it. But if you want to make decent money from your book, for example, if your goal is to make hundreds of dollars in royalties a month from your book, while that may not be the strategy that you want to follow.
I also think that, and I’ve seen the suggested in some different places, that the title of number one Amazon Bestseller is going to lose its clout as more and more people realize that, number one, you don’t have to sell a ton of books to get there. And number two, that you can get to that number one spot by, for lack of a better term, gaming the system by choosing a category that’s not necessarily a good fit for your book because it has low competition so that you can move up to the top very quickly. And I think that the more people especially follow that strategy to where they can get to the top of a category just by selling 10 or 15 books. I think that the title of number one, Amazon best seller is going to lose its luster. So to say, and I’ve seen this in groups with people who aren’t authors, they have, for example, hired on somebody to do a project for them or they’ve hired on somebody as an expert thinking, Oh hey, there are a number one Amazon bestseller and that person didn’t deliver what they thought they were going to because of that title.
And the more people continue to follow that strategy and then use it as proof and then if they don’t have the quality behind their business or whatever they do to back that up. The title of number one, Amazon bestseller is going to again, really mean nothing ultimately. So if you are hindering, hopefully you’re not. But if you had thought about hinges, you know, an entire business plan or marketing strategy, whatever, just on the fact that you’re a number one Amazon bestseller, I want you to really think hard about that and just make sure that, again, you’ve thought it through, that you know all of the ramifications and that you’re making an educated decision. So I hope that you have enjoyed this rambling breakdown of how I became a number one Amazon bestseller. I hope that it’s educational to you as you decide what kind of strategies you want to pursue with your book and how you ultimately want to use your book to build Your Business.
SUBSCRIBE TO THE BLOGGER TO AUTHOR PODCAST
Don’t forget to subscribe to and rate the Blogger to Author Podcast on Apple Podcasts! You can also catch the Blogger to Author Podcast on Google Play and Stitcher.