An article I wrote for the latest Summer edition of NZSA Author Magazine has a few handy tips for writers struggling to get traction in the online publishing world.

With 33 million book titles, it’s no surprise that the world’s biggest online retailer relies heavily on bots, replete with complex algorithms to make your eyes water. Want to weep some more? Amazon generated $US75.5 billion in revenue in the first quarter of 2020.

More disturbing is recent commentary in international media, lamenting the need for authors to invest money to make money – pretty much what every other business does.

These days, you can write a world-class masterpiece, and it never gets read by more than a few friends and fewer fans. If you haven’t got the online-savvy or the money to purchase ongoing advertising, you’ll sink below the horizon of this relentless monolith and whimper into oblivion. But the real issue for authors is advertising spend, to push your books up the rankings and get some visibility amongst the infinite clicks an hour Amazon enjoys.

Here are ten tips I’ve learned during my rage against the Zon-machine, attempting to force books to the muddy online surface;

  1. Write a good book. Your book is a product, and thick skin is required to succeed. If your book is professionally designed, edited and proofread with a killer cover, you’re halfway there. Ironically, the cover needs to blend with others in your genre. Readers know the genre’s they like, and if your book looks different, they won’t buy. This all costs money, but we’re focusing on getting up the rankings.
  2. Make sure your product is right. Test it with early Beta readers and take their feedback onboard. Research keywords that relate to your book and its content. Look at other bestsellers in your genre and customer ‘also boughts’ before wading into those keywords and select only those relating to your product. Genre, keywords and categories must all link in terms of common keywords. Those algorithms are seeking commonalities, connections they can make in metadata buried in your would-be bestseller. They need to be relevant words your potential readers are searching. SEO on Amazon relies on this crucial factor. The much-toted gunshot approach where you pound 300+ words into AMS sponsored ads – Nah – the machine gives up, and your book trails along the bottom of the tank. If you want to swim to the surface – use less than 100 words and make them relate 100% to your book. Relevance is not just king but the entire royal family.

For more of this article see: New Zealand Authors issue 323 (pdf)